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Wood Pellet storage poses Carbon Monoxide risk

04 December 2012

Since 2002 nine fatalities have been recorded in Europe where the cause of death was documented as Carbon Monoxide poisoning from Wood Pellet storage areas.

During November the Health and Safety Executive released an article regarding the storage of wood pellets as part of its Carbon Monoxide awareness week.

The article delves in how wood pellets are used, why and actions that are required if you maintain/distribute or manufacture wood pellets.

Below you will find some interesting facts that derived from the HSE report. We have also included some information on instrumentation that may benefit you if you do come into contact/work with wood pellets.

What are wood pellets?

Wood pellets are made from dried and milled sawdust. The Carbon Monoxide produced from Wood pellets is the result of an auto-oxidation process (of the fatty acids within the pellets). There are varying factors that affect the amount of Carbon Monoxide that is produced;
  • Age (more carbon produced within the first six weeks of being manufactured).
  • Temperature - higher temperatures will cause more Carbon Monoxide to be produced.
  • Wood Type - Pine pellets contain more fatty acids and therefore more Carbon Monoxide will be produced.
  • Exposed surface areas.
  • Amount of Oxygen present - storage facilities need to be appropriately ventilated.
  • Moisture content in wood is the highest compared to all flue gas products.
What advice are the HSE giving?
  • Hoppers/tanks/storage rooms and boilers should be installed/commissioned by a competent person.
  • Only personnel who are fully trained in confined space entry should enter a pellet storage area. (Code of practice for working in Confined Spaces should be put into place).
  • Boilers and pellet feed mechanisms should be serviced regularly by a competent person.
  • If a unit encounters a fault, the unit should be immediately turned of and the supplier/manufacturer contacted for assistance.
  • There should be appropriate safe systems and risk assessments (by the duty holder).
  • Manufacturers/suppliers/distributors of wood pellets should provide health and safety information.
  • Warning signs should be placed in pellet storage areas. (Danger Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, No smoking fires or naked flames, adequate ventilation required, risk of injury from moveable parts, filling instructions in accordance with instructions of the heating installation company).
What can I use to monitor wood gas boilers?

Shawcity technical specialist Julian Butler is knowledgeable in the field of Flue Gas Analysis and the use of FGA's in monitoring wood gas burners or storage facilities. When asked Julian stated " The ideal Flue Gas Analyser for wood gas burners is the Eurolyzer STe due to their insusceptibility to moisture changes."

Most usual Flue Gas Analysers are affected by moisture which disrupts and ruins the sensors within the unit ultimately giving users incorrect readings. The EuroLyzer's special water trap filtration system and sealed keyboard makes the unit the most reliable FGA on the market.

The EuroLyzer STe is a high quality Flue Gas, temperature and Pressure Analyser which is designed for both domestic and industrial systems. EuroLyzer has a unique 5 year O2 sensor and optional low cost service contract that ensures your running costs are kept low.

The sampling probe boasts a unique filtration system which provides the ultimate protection from contamination from water ensuring that your instrument stays dry.

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