The Battle Between Triboelectic Dust Detection and Opacity Meters

Regulating authorities require nearly all industrial facilities to measure dust particulate emissions in some fashion. Opacity meters were, for decades, the standard required by the EPA and under many State and Local air permits.

However, in recent years, triboelectric particulate monitors have been promoted by some as superior to opacity meters, and have begun replacing opacity meters in many applications across all industries. So why the change? Is there a reason to switch to triboelectric monitoring devices for dust/particulate monitoring?

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3 Ways Your Current Dust Monitoring System Is Failing You

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.

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What's the best BLDS for baghouse monitoring and dust collection diagnostics

Making a careful regulatory investment

When the need arises to invest in a bag leak detection system for dust collection system(s), many plants face a myriad of options. But what should plants look for in a bag leak detection system? How do the various options compare? How should you decide what's the best BLDS for your requirements?

3 key features are critical to efficient long-term BLDS operations.

  1. Early warning & predictive levels of sensitivity
  2. Monitor data real time to identify trends
  3. Total cost including capital, installation, maintenance, down time and life span

Before making any purchase, consider these points and see whether or not your preferred BLDS measures up. 

Sensitive Enough to Detect Minor Leaks Quickly

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Why Dust Collector Maintenance Teams Should Demand Triboelectric Monitoring

With the push for efficiency demanded by the current economy many industrial plant managers press every department to find new ways to do more with less. In particular, maintenance departments frequently feel the pressure to do more with less, cutting costs but owning responsibility for the same or even increased number of systems. 

For this reason, maintenance departments look for any ways they can to cut capital costs and reduce labor costs. We know it's easy to wish for expensive equipment upgrades or new installations, but  these frequently fall far outside the budget for many facilities. 

How can maintenance departments deal with this situation? 

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Triboelectric vs. Optical Bag Leak Detectors - Finding Leaks in Minutes Instead of Days

When dust collector filters begin leaking operators must act quickly to remedy the problem. Even just one leaking baghouse filter can be enough for an entire system to exceed its emissions limits for PM 2.5. Additionally, the longer leaking filters remain in use the worse the leak becomes, potentially creating large amounts of dust accumulations in the collector and areas near the exhaust. 

For this reason, many facilities have decided to supplement traditional optical detection with a triboelectric bag leak detection system into their process. Additionally, many industries now fall under MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standards from the EPA. Many of these MACT standards include provisions requiring the use of bag leak detection systems for all dust collectors used in certain applications.  

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I Already Use Continuous Opacity Monitoring - Should I use a BLDS too?

This is an interesting question that we hear in the field regarding bag leak detection systems. A good number of facilities have optical detectors (i.e. continuous opacity monitoring) installed on their dust collection systems. They often ask us whether or not they should consider replacing the opacity meter with the triboelectric unit or if they would see more benefits by using both in parallel.  

Let us first consider the difference between the two technologies and their individual capabilities and then review why we recommend replacing the opacity detectors entirely with triboelectric technology. (That's actually a change specifically endorsed by USEPA at least for certain applications. Check out our timeline of BLDS technical evolution to learn about how Auburn led the development of technology that has improved the reliability and accuracy of monitoring.)

Differences Between Optical and Triboelectric Monitoring

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Before Reportable Events - Operational Value of Broken Bag Detectors

More than just fretting about Reportable Events

If bags in your baghouse start to leak, and your dust collector performance deteriorates, eventually particulate emissions will increase.  Often companies track the threshold that obligates them to report an event under their air permit - and once a facility’s emissions exceed these limits they are required to report the incident to the regulating authority having jurisdiction. This process is lengthy and can involve remediation, sanctions and large fines.

For this reason, we often describe the importance of preventing small issues from becoming reportable events—something that triboelectric detection systems can prevent.  For instance we suggest using more sensitive broken bag detectors that can even detect trends well below the reportable limit.  And often multiple alarm levels can provide critical early warning to allow maintenance teams to fix problems before a reportable excursion even occurs.

But besides causing reportable events, leaking filters can cause other serious problems in a factory - often leading to product and equipment damage and possible health concerns.

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Continuous Opacity Monitoring vs Triboelectric detection - What's best?

The good news is that you've got options for particulate matter monitoring.  The choice of a monitoring system is an important one with capital acquisition cost, operational cost and compliance implications. It directly affects the bottom line at your facility. In short, facilities have to chose from two types of detection technology, optical (typically COM / continuous opacity monitoring) or triboelectric. Rather than selecting one by "its always been done this way", we recommend you carefully consider these four questions to determine which will prove the best fit. 

What Is Required By Your Air Permit?

Depending the application, different State and Federal (EPA) sets of rules may cover your operation. For general industry, optical methods such as visual testing and opacity meters may be acceptable. In other cases, industry-specific MACT standards (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) apply. For example, the MACT standard for Secondary Lead Smelters in 1995 specifically required triboelectric detection systems for dust collectors stating that optical methods were not sensitive enough to detect such small amounts of particulate matter emissions.  After that Triboelectric Bag Leak Detection Systems were included in all subsequent MACT standards involving fabric filters.

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Three Data Collection Tips to Simplify Your Air Permit Reporting

Whether quarterly, semi-annually or yearly, air permit reporting requires a great deal of resources to do properly. Even as monitoring and reporting technology has advanced in recent years many facilities continue to use outdated methods that only add to this burden.

We want to make your job simpler - so here are three tips on how most plants can achieve significant savings in time and resources by tweaking their approach to air permit reporting. 

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Can I Use a Triboelectric Bag Leak Detector with Any Dust Collector?

We're sometimes asked whether our triboelectric detection systems work with all types of dust collectors or only with “baghouses”. When we're asked, we normally step back a bit to discuss what dust collectors are exactly and how we speak about them. So if you've ever wondered, here's a brief description on the differences between dust collector styles and where you commonly see them.

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