Although many combustion-related accidents still happen each year, the safety of fuel-fired equipment has improved at least one hundred-fold in the last one hundred years. Back then, industrial explosions and related accidents were common, even daily, occurrences. There is no doubt that an industrial explosion is a tragic event, but luckily, there are many things you can do to prevent them. By properly caring for your company’s combustion system and implementing the right safety precautions, you can minimize the likelihood of an accident.
What is an Industrial Combustion System?
Industrial combustion systems include ovens, furnaces, and more. Their function is to convert all of their fuel into CO2, H2O, and heat. These systems are relied on across the globe to produce the products we use every day. Industries that rely on combustion systems include:
- Alternative fuel
- Building materials
- Gas boosting
- Automotive and general paint finishing
- Hot water and steam
- Oil and gas
- Chemical and pharmaceuticals
- Power generation
- Many more
10 Tips for Combustion System Safety
Not only is there a human cost involved in ignoring combustion system safety, but there is also a financial cost. Every year millions of dollars are lost to business disruption, equipment damage, lawsuits, fines, litigation, and business value depreciation, all thanks to combustion-related accidents. Read these ten tips for combustion safety and implement them as soon as you can to prevent accidents.
1. Clean Filters
A blocked filter will cause serious problems. It will bog your system down and keep it from receiving the required input. Over time, a clogged filter will strain the combustion air blowers to such a degree that the cost to maintain your motor and electrical system will surely increase. In the worst-case scenario, your burners will grow fuel-rich, which is a waste of fuel and can cause carbon build-up. No matter what, this will make a mess, but if left unchecked, it will cause a fire.
2. Balance Pipework
It is increasingly common that furnaces use multiple burners with the same source of air. Previously, pipework balance and industrial combustion burner design weren’t so important. Today, however, it is critical that balance is considered all the way through the air and gas supply lines due to rigid temperature and burner control. This design change has been made because air- and gas-staging reach lower emissions and achieve better performance.
3. Ensure Proper Function and Cleanliness of Exhaust Systems
Check, clean, and perform a combustion safety test on your system every month. Modern equipment is smarter and more efficient, but it’s also more sensitive. A dirty or dysfunctional system is hazardous.
The value of combustion safety training cannot be overstated. Educate yourself and your workers on everything related to combustion safety. From cleaning and maintenance to the in’s and out’s of how the system actually works. Equipment manufacturers and trade organizations even offer different options for combustion schools that teach everything there is to know about burner function and care. Most schools last less than one week.
5. Excess Air Removal
Industrial burners aren’t built to burn excess air. In fact, most are created to burn with less than 15% excess of air. The cause of excess air is usually due to controls that have moved or some other occurrence that makes the burners lean outward. Regardless of the cause, excess air can cost a lot of money and degrade the system’s function.
6. Check for Outward Signs of Degradation
If the oven or furnace is slowing or losing temperature stability, you should first check to see if the burners are still in place and that excess air isn’t being let in. Another often overlooked culprit is damaged door seals and linings. Extreme oven or furnace shell temperatures are a sign that you’re losing heat from the inside of the system and heating the space and people around it instead. This massive heat loss can make working conditions too hot (and unsafe) and waste more money.
7. Check Pressure
Pressure, velocity, and flow are integral to proper burner function and operation. If you familiarize yourself with these measurements, understand why they matter, and check them regularly, you will be able to detect and correct system changes and malfunctions before they get out of hand.
8. Maintenance Inspections
Performing routine maintenance inspections is another great way to catch problems in their early stages. Walk around your equipment regularly and be vigilant as you inspect. What is the temperature like? What do you hear? If anything seems abnormal, call someone in for a second opinion or make repairs right away.
9. What Color is the Flame?
You should know what your flame is supposed to look like. Some systems are meant to burn with a lean flame, but most are luminescent and bright, which suggests gas-rich conditions. A white or blue flame indicates either lean-burn or excess air, which can be dangerous.
10. Use Cooling Fans
There are many benefits of a cooling fan in an industrial setting. Cooling fans help overcome excessive heat problems for:
- Workers in high-heat areas – overheated workers are a safety hazard to themselves and the machinery they run. Maintaining a strong, healthy, and happy workforce is an essential part of any successful business. Healthy workers will correctly operate machinery.
- Overheating prevention – if a machine is hot to the touch, it can ignite any substance that comes in contact with it. This is one of the most common causes of industrial fires. Some cooling fans are designed to cool overheating machinery. Not only does this prevent disasters, but it also extends the life of your equipment.
What’s Your Plan?
The best way to avoid a combustion system disaster is to consider these safety tips and create a plan to check and maintain your industrial combustion system routinely. It’s vital to know your combustion system inside and out so you can read the signs that tell you when something is off. If you have any questions about your current industrial combustion system or are looking to upgrade your equipment, contact our team of professionals.