What's the Most Accurate Method to Monitor Dust emissions?

Posted by Earl Parker on Jul 25, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Many options exist for monitoring various types of dust emissions including nuisance emissions, ambient/fugitive dust levels or emissions from a pollution control device such as an air scrubber or fabric filter dust collector. 

With ever more stringent regulations and the need for high performance from industrial processes in order to compete in a global marketplace, many facilities can no longer afford to install, operate and/or maintain outdated systems. The need for the best cannot be overlooked when considering operational and compliance issues for your facility. 

3 Reasons Why Accuracy Matterswhat's the most accurate way to monitor dust emissions

Accuracy matters because accurate dust collection monitoring provides operators with the needed insight to operate, optimize and maintain these systems. Trying to operate a dust collector without accurate dust emissions data is like flying an airplane without an altimeter or driving a race car without a tachometer. Lack of data means poorer decision making and degraded performance.  

Accurate emissions measurements are crucial for your plant to remaining profitable in the long run for three main reasons:

  1. compliance with environmental regulations
  2. health and safety of employees
  3. preventing system downtime. 

Failure to comply fully with environmental regulations will result in fines, sanctions and possibly even forced shutdowns and criminal prosecutions. Governments around the world are elevating law enforcement priorities for environmental protection and have shown that even small infractions can result in powerful responses against large AND SMALL businesses. 

Failure to control dust emissions and operate an adequate dust collection system can quickly result in not only a hazardous work environment but also potentially a deadly one. The combustible dust explosion that rocked the Imperial Sugar Factory in Port Wenthworth, Georgia in 2008 killed 14 people and injured over 40 when a lack of adequate dust collection allowed a buildup of relatively benign sugar dust to ignite and create a chain reaction that destroyed an entire section of the plant. Yes, failure to provide a safe work environment free from dust hazards can be devastating.

In addition to their use as pollution control devices, many industrial processes also make use of dust collection systems as part of their processes. A common example is the collection of powder product from fluid bed dryers. Whether it's just emissions or ambient dust control, or part of the manufacturing process, any shutdowns due to unforeseen maintenance issues can result in huge losses for the plant due to production losses. 

Most Accurate Monitor for Dust Emissions

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well as the saying goes. So that begs the question "What's the most accurate way to monitor?"

Older methods such as visual observations (EPA method 9 and 22) as well as indirect substitutes such as dust collector differential pressure do not provide accurate and reliable emissions data. While useful as backup verification methods (e.g. conducting observations when other monitoring methods are down) or for maintenance purposes (DP vital for baghouse maintenance purposes) these methods cannot meet the needs of today’s air permit requirements. 

The more popular opacity-based systems have long been used as the base of many Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems or CEMS that are in use in many larger plants. However, opacity based detection is limited. The effective detection range for most opacity meters is 10% opacity or higher, which usually equates to about 0.0010 g/dscf). In most newer air standards, including many MACT standards and some NSPS, this threshold is higher than the maximum allowable emissions. In short, by time the opacity meter registers any emissions these facilities will have already exceeded their air permit. 

Triboelectric dust detection devices are the most accurate particle concentration measurement devices used for emissions today. They can detect concentrations down to 0.000002 g/dscf (or 0.005 mg/m3), 20 times more sensitive than opacity meters. This level of sensitivity means triboelectric detectors are frequently used in plants with very strict emissions limits, such as hazardous compounds or with high combustibility. Additionally, many facilities with air permits that require fabric dust collector operators to carefully monitor for broken filters make use of triboelectric detectors, or bag leak detection systems due to their ability to detect bag failure in its earliest stages. {For more information on the benefits beyond compliance see articles in our blog}


The choice of monitoring technology can be difficult to lock down. However, taking sufficient time to examine all the options and educate your people about the pros and cons of each type of system will go a long way to making your compliance requirements simpler while also improving your bottom line. 

Wondering about the predictive power of more accurate instruments? Check out our on demand webinar that takes you through predictive monitoring step-by-step.

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Topics: Bag Leak Detection, Particulate Monitoring, Dust Detection