Connecting the Dots Between Painted Cars and Evolving U.S. EPA MACT Standards

Posted by Earl Parker on Jun 28, 2017 11:30:00 AM

Invention born of a mishap

Often we discuss the advantages of triboelectric dust monitoring technology over other particulate emissions monitoring methods for plants covered under MACT standards. For the most part, the majority of these advantages come from the much greater detection range and sensitivity of triboelectric technology. Triboelectric detectors can register changes in dust concentration down to 0.000002 g/dscf or 0.005 mg/m3. The next most sensitive detection device (opacity meters and other optical based monitors) can only reach down to 5 -10% opacity, which in most applications equates to about 10 - 20 times less sensitive. Even so, many industries continue to use opacity based systems despite this and other shortcomings of opacity monitoring solutions compared to triboelectric technology. 

In the early development of triboelectric detection for emissions monitoring, Auburn Systems’ founder, Ron Dechene recounts an interesting story about how his innovation was legitimized by a paint manufacturer and a set of cars in the parking lot to highlight the benefits of triboelectric monitoring for dust collector filter monitoring.

Painted Cars and Emissions Monitoring from Dust Collectors EPA-Opacities.jpg

When Ron was first developing triboelectric technology in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was battling against the then state of the art opacity monitoring approach that had the blessing of the EPA and was being adopted by many industrial facilities. While trying to determine whether or not there was a need for his higher accuracy triboelectric detection technology he came across a paint manufacturer in Michigan that had recently adopted 10% lower limit of Continuous Opacity Monitoring (COM) for their dust collection systems.

One day, the plant began to suffer from an excursion of PM emissions through the dust collection systems. Despite having the latest in opacity monitoring installed, no alarms triggered. The result was that the stack started to let loose wave after wave of white pigment powder. Due to the prevailing wind conditions that day, the majority of the pigment landed directly on the employee parking lot, covering dozens of cars in a thin film of white pigment. This resulted in the plant having to pay to repaint all of the employees’ cars. 

While not a massive environmental disaster that it could have been had this been some other industry or product line, the expense involved in repainting everyone’s cars, the downtime due to the event and negative publicity nonetheless proved to management that a better solution was needed. At this time, Ron arrived with some of Auburn’s earliest generation of triboelectric detection systems and provided that alternative. That sparked the early growth for the triboelectric monitoring market - providing an early warning that the opacity monitors could not.  Auburn sold many of the original Triboflow broken bag detectors to companies that were concerned about keeping their parking lots, and surrounding neighborhoods protected from any excursions.

EPA Continues to Rely Mainly on Opacity…But Winds of Change Are Coming

30+ years later and Auburn Systems is still providing improved monitoring solutions for its customers compared to opacity based monitoring.  In fact, with the dual signal processing advance in the TRIBO.dsp product line, today's monitors are vastly more improved from early triboelectric which sometimes earned a reputation for finickiness.

In the interim, agencies have issued much stricter air emissions standards than those present during the development and wide adoption of COMs. Beginning in the mid 90s with the MACT standard for Secondary Lead Smelting, the need for more accurate emissions monitoring was finally recognized by the EPA, which for the first time cited triboelectric broken bag detection systems as required for use to the exclusion of opacity monitors under that MACT standard. Since then, triboelectric bag leak detection systems became a standard option for the ensuing MACT standards, providing companies the option to switch wholesale from opacity monitoring to triboelectric based systems. 

As this trend continues, we can proudly look back on that set of cars and their new paint job and see the beginnings of triboelectric monitoring for industrial dust collectors. 

You can benefit now from Auburn Systems decades of experience bringing triboelectric monitoring to many industries. Contact us today with details of your application and let us use our experience to benefit your plant today and simplify compliance with applicable MACT standards!

If you're responsible for managing emissions control and dust collection systems you'll want to check out our free Baghouse Maintenance Guide today.

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Topics: Bag Leak Detection, MACT Reporting, Environmental Monitoring