Case Study: Port Controls Wood Pellet Dust without Oversaturating Cargo

portable dust control machine controlling wood pellet dust

“We placed the DustBoss downwind when we began loading a ship.

This cargo is very sensitive to moisture. If the pellets get wet, they tend to crumble, so we had to avoid spraying any water down into the hold.

Once we started working, we aimed the plume of water mist into the dust cloud, and it made an immediate difference.”

- John Ramer
Director of Terminal Services

The Panama City Port Authority needed a dust suppression system that wouldn't oversaturate the wood pellet cargo while knocking down large quantities of airborne particles before they can migrate to residential areas or nearby businesses.

Officials report that the equipment has been very efficient, helping to protect ambient air quality and prevent negative effects on workers, as well as local residents and manufacturing operations.

“We maintain an 80,000 sq. foot warehouse used exclusively for storing wood pellets, which are a widely used biomass fuel in Europe,” said John Ramer, Director of Terminal Services. “The facility receives about 30,000 metric tons of pellets each month by rail car, creating stockpiles more than 100 feet wide at the base, with an enormous potential for dust,” he said.

To control the inevitable dust from three front loaders with 10-yard buckets feeding a 600-foot conveyor and then dumping such a huge volume of pellets into a ship’s hold, Ramer knew that he’d need dust suppression equipment designed specifically for that purpose.

Finding the right dust control solutions

Dust suppression at the port of Panama CityWhile researching potential dust control solutions, he happened to visit a large grain handler on the Mississippi River and saw a brand new DustBoss® on-site. Although he had looked at dust suppression machines that appeared similar, this design seemed larger, more powerful and ruggedly built.

After some investigation on the Internet, Ramer learned that the dust control machine he’d seen at the grain handler had the kind of range he would need for his own ship loading application. He decided that the next time a vessel came into port, he would rent a DustBoss 60 (DB-60).

“We placed the DustBoss downwind when we began loading a ship,” Ramer said. “This cargo is very sensitive to moisture. If the pellets get wet, they tend to crumble, so we had to avoid spraying any water down into the hold. Once we started working, we aimed the plume of water mist into the dust cloud, and it made an immediate difference.” He estimated that dock workers can load about 1,000 metric tons of material per hour.

As it happened, shortly after taking delivery of the rental dust control machine, the port facility got a visit from the Department of Environmental Protection. The agency representative appeared to be impressed with the dust control methods at the site, and departed without issuing any notices or warnings about dust. Ramer’s crew has rented the equipment several times since, and the results have convinced the Port to purchase a unit.

In addition to its dust suppression efficiency, Port officials cite the versatility and mobility of the unit as added benefits, allowing workers to position the DustBoss wherever it’s needed most on a given day, depending on wind and weather conditions. The broad coverage of the oscillating design allows them to effectively control dust over an area nearly half a football field in size from a single location.

“Under these circumstances, there is no single solution that’s going to completely solve the dust problem,” Ramer said. “But wind screens and other physical barriers just weren’t enough. I think the DEP was pleased to see us making every reasonable effort and using the best of current technology to keep the dust contained.”

While the DustBoss typically pays for itself, Ramer said: “Saving money wasn’t our primary goal in this application. The benefit is less tangible than that. It’s really about protecting health and the environment, and preventing dust from becoming a nuisance for our neighbors. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Panama City Port Authority

Port of Panama City, Florida (US)

Identify and implement a technique for suppressing large quantities of wood dust during ship loading, helping to prevent the possibility that airborne particles will contribute to health risks or create a nuisance for residential communities or neighboring businesses.

The DustBoss® 60 (DB-60), a powerful ducted fan design with a 25 HP motor that generates 30,000 CFM, capable of covering as much as 21,000 square feet (1,950 square meters) with a fine mist of atomized droplets for outstanding dust control.

Port officials initially rented the DB-60 when a ship was in port to be loaded with wood pellets used as a biomass fuel, positioning it slightly downwind to avoid getting mist into the cargo hold. The machine has proven so effective at knocking down fugitive dust that the port has decided to purchase the unit.

operates in Bay County in the Florida panhandle, the northernmost port in the Gulf of Mexico. Established in 1967, the 125-acre facility has grown to six deep-water berths consisting of 3,240 linear feet, with 32-foot draft, 600 linear feet of barge facilities, and 470,000 square feet of warehousing space. The Port is equipped with modem loading and unloading facilities for truck, rail, barge, container, RO-RO vessel and deep-water vessel traffic. Important import/export commodities include wood and paper products, steel, copper and bulk aggregate. Projected throughput for the 2008-2009 fiscal year is approximately 1.5 million tons of cargo.

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