Biomass accident investigations – missed opportunities for learning and accident prevention

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Abstract

The past decade has seen a major increase in the production of energy from biomass. The growth has been mirrored in an increase of serious biomass related accidents involving fires, gas explosions, combustible dust explosions and the release of toxic gasses. There are indications that the number of bioenergy related accidents is growing faster than the energy production. This paper argues that biomass accidents, if properly investigated and lessons shared widely, provide ample opportunities for improving general hazard awareness and safety performance of the biomass industry. The paper examines selected serious accidents involving biogas and wood pellets in Denmark and argues that such opportunities for learning were missed because accident investigations were superficial, follow-up incomplete and information sharing absent. In one particularly distressing case, a facility saw a repeat accident, this time with fatal outcome, still without any learning taking place. The paper presents some information on other biomass accidents in Denmark, mostly involving biogas from anaerobic digestion. Details are lacking however, precisely because the accidents were insufficiently investigated and results not communicated. The biomass industry needs to pay more attention to safety. Utmost care should be taken to avoid so-called mediashifting i.e. that the resolution of a problem within one domain, the environmental, creates a new problem in another, the workplace safety domain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition
PublisherETA-Florence Renewable Energies
Publication date2017
Pages1804-1814
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event25th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition - Stockholmsmässan, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 12 Jun 201715 Jun 2017

Conference

Conference25th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition
LocationStockholmsmässan
CountrySweden
CityStockholm
Period12/06/201715/06/2017

Keywords

  • Biogas
  • Wood pellet
  • Explosion
  • ATEX
  • Accident investigation
  • Lessons learned
  • Inherent safety

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