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Preventing Electrostatic Explosions and Fires

By Vahid Ebadat |

There are many occasions in chemical processing plants where electrostatic charge generation and accumulation can occur, potentially leading to fires and explosions. Engineers must understand these hazards and how to mitigate them We are all familiar with the electrostatic shocks we receive at home or stores, perhaps from elevator buttons or shop displays, or when getting out of a car. These shocks are examples of “sparks” or sudden discharges of static electricity (Figure 1). They are a nuisance in a home setting, but in an industrial context, electrostatic discharges can and do cause many devastating flash fires and explosions. This is particularly true in the chemical process industries (CPI), where plants routinely handle flammable liquids and solids in ways that inadvertently generate static electricity. These materials are often flammable, of course, and they can be ignited by discharges of the static electricity that they have generated. FIGURE 1. Electrostatic discharges are commonplace in many parts of life, but their presence in industrial settings can lead to destructive fires and explosions[/caption]   Whenever any two surfaces contact and then separate, static electric charge is generated. Most static charge…
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