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Anaerobic Digester Plant Explosion Blamed on Gas Storage EPDM Failure

explosion risk assessment

Nobody was hurt by this biogas explosion, thankfully. However, this does serve to emphasize that these very real risks that exist in anaerobic digestion.

Plastic membrane covers are normally comparably safe as they tend to deflate in the event of a small gas leak, and don’t provide a rigid void with part air and part methane present, which is of course much more likely to become an explosive mixture of methane and air within, what are called “the explosive limits!”.

A little bit of gas in air will burn and not explode, equally a methane filled space containing no oxygen will not explode, rather it would put out a flame. In between these concentrations there is the explosive zone. In Europe a set of regulations known as the ATEX Regs. applies to assessing and managing explosion risks of this sort.

“EPDM” (ethylene propylene diene monomer (M-class) rubber), is the extremely durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane which is used to cover biogas tanks.

Now having given you the background, the original article link, and our extract from the article follows:

EPDM failure causes anaerobic digester explosion | TPO …

“The chances of an anaerobic digester exploding are slim to none. But that’s exactly what happened at Tim Bielenberg’s Oak Lea Farm in Aumsville, Ore. “I don’t …www.tpomag.com/…/epdm_failure_causes_anaerobic_digester…”
http://www.tpomag.com/online_exclusives/2013/03/epdm_failure_causes_anaerobic_digester_explosion

“The gas that was in that headspace combusted rather than going down the gas train to the engine or any other location. During that process, you have to have the exact combination of ambient air and methane for it to be combustible. It came in contact with some ignition source.”

Fortunately, the system operated as designed so it began to shut itself down after the dramatic change in gas pressure and flame arrestors on the biogas train also proved effective. The minor damage was only above the rim of both tanks, and no one was hurt in the explosion. While the chances of this happening again are rare, RES has taken steps to prevent  “There are tremendous ground fields around the engine and the interconnection,” says Tank. “We ground the tanks, and we now apply a ground application to the EPDM as well.”

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8 Responses to Anaerobic Digester Plant Explosion Blamed on Gas Storage EPDM Failure

  1. FirstGuy December 30, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    I see you do report negative news about Anaerobic Digestion sometimes, but your blog would be more balanced if you didn’t keep quiet about major safety problems like this one:

    “A health and safety investigation is under way after two people received “serious injuries” after an explosion at a biogas plant.

    Nottinghamshire Police confirmed it had received reports of a gas explosion”.

    Your readers should be told.

    • radimin May 23, 2018 at 11:52 pm #

      FirstGuy – You say “major safety problems like this one”. Sorry, don’t agree, this was a minor incident. It was not what should be considered as a major safety problem, in my opinion.

  2. James February 10, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

    These big covers full of gas… Reminds me of WW2 airships. Where are those now? Is this a safe way to store flammable gas.

  3. Bailey Davis February 28, 2018 at 9:53 pm #

    I have checked out your site and i have found some interesting, and original content. maybe I am new to this, but What is “EPDM Failure”. How about explaining your use of these things sometimes for the guys who are learning.

    • radimin March 15, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

      Bailey Davis: Sorry! “EPDM is the extremely durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane used to cover biogas tanks.” I’ll explain that in the article as well.

  4. Rayford Jones May 18, 2018 at 2:06 am #

    This is gas! Bad things gonna happen unless you take great care. Yep – even explosions. Liking your website mate!

  5. karina outleader August 10, 2018 at 4:38 pm #

    To me this shows how risky anaerobic biodigesters can be if something goes wrong. Bad enough that a farm family is endangered and possibly injured, but at least farmers can site those hazardous digesters well away from their homes and barns. The worst part is that in cities, such digesters are put close to homes. it’s not right to do this without sufficient buffer zones. If something bad happens, it also will likely impact on the nearest neighbors. See this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LPfno2KPcg

  6. F Pope August 15, 2018 at 9:09 am #

    Hello. Bad things can happen. Take care.

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