More than just satisfying the air permit
You might think very little about your emissions or dust monitoring system at your facility. Many only pay attention to the dust collection system when it becomes a nuisance…when it interferes with other activity at your facility. You may tell yourself that your monitoring system will let you know when a problem arises and you can fix it then. This is the equivalent of burying your head in the sand.
The reality is that many plants have very outdated dust collection monitoring in place, if at all. Yet, many managers and operators are convinced their existing system serves them adequately. While this may have been true in years past, much has changed in recent years regarding dust collector operation and regulation. Many older dust monitoring system technologies such as opacity observation, differential pressure monitoring or opacity meters cannot keep up with the needs of modern industrial facility. Let’s take a look at 3 ways these systems can fail your plant in operations, reliability and compliance.
1. Fails to Alert You BEFORE You Have A Reportable Event
For most plants, monitoring exists primarily to comply with emissions regulations or control respirable dust and/or combustible dust issues. If this is true in your facility, then you know well that failure to properly operate and maintain a dust collector can have serious consequences. Compliance violations whether for emissions or safety can have massive direct and indirect costs in the form of fines and forced shutdowns to property damage or employee injury and/or death.
Before it escalates to these levels the simplest violation often results in what we call a “reportable event” whereby problems result in dust levels rising above a certain point that requires you to formally report an overage/violation to your local air board or safety regulator. Once this level is reached costs from mandatory reporting and remedial activities will often be incurred along with possible automatic fines and sanctions.
The problem is that many legacy dust monitoring systems simply cannot detect the beginnings of a problem with your dust collector until you have already blown past the reportable event level. For example, most air permits require nearly 99.99% efficiency from dust collection equipment. Even one leaking filter can cause an entire system to blow its emissions limits. Sadly, by time opacity observations can detect a problem plant is already well in excess of the top limit and must report the overage.
2. Fails to Reduce Maintenance Costs
Older monitoring methods cannot provide much in the way of insight into the operation of your system. For example, most can only detect major filter failures not individual filter leaks until they reach a massive level. And unlike modern monitoring methods they provide no assistance to maintenance personnel when trying to locate leaking filters. In larger systems than can have multiple compartments with hundreds or even thousands of filters locating leaking filters without any help from the monitoring system can pose an immense challenge. That means unscheduled downtime, maintenance overtime and collateral damage as nearby bags are abraded and destroyed as a result of the leak.
3. Fails to Reduce Downtime
Though often overlooked, a poorly planned dust monitoring system will often cause significant downtime for entire facilities. This downtime often ends up costing far more than than investing adequate time or resources into preventative maintenance. A good place to start is with monitoring. Old methods as described above often cannot detect problems until they becomes quite serious. As noted previously, today’s regulatory environment such large deviations do not come without serious consequences. However, from a production side, dust collector issues can cause a host of problems leading to lost production. Bottlenecks in process over loss of suction from blocked filters, loss of product through worn out filters or damage to your ductwork system through less of conveying velocity and subsequent product dropout in the ductwork. Your outdated monitoring methods cannot provide any real help in these and other areas like newer systems can and do for many plants.
Trying to stay competitive as a modern industrial enterprise requires your operation to be running at the highest possible efficiency. When integral systems such as dust collectors start becoming more than a nuisance and more of a direct problem its time to consider how to fix this broken link in your production chain. In our 40+ years of experience we have found that for many the first step is improving their monitoring strategies, which then can provide the insight required to carry out meaningful reforms to optimize operation.
Here's the bottom line - while most companies see their dust monitoring system as a regulatory obligation, a few derive exceptional operational benefit. Wouldn't you rather optimize your monitoring?