The Situation

When you have coal dust falling like black snow in your plant, you have a BIG problem to fix

  • AMCOL International (Amcol), a specialty minerals and chemicals manufacturer based in the US, is one of the world’s largest miners and processors of bentonite.
  • One of their many plants across Asia is located in Tianjin, China where they were producing a proprietary product for the green sand foundry industry. The product was a mix of finely milled coal with bentonite as well as other additives.
  • The Tianjin plant was designed, engineered and built in 2005, by a Chinese engineering and construction firm.
  • In 2007 during a routine visit to the plant, Amcol’s President of Asia found himself covered in black dust as he was walking through the plant. Upon further inspection, the black dust was actually finely milled coal that was leaking profusely from the plant’s milling and conveying system.
  • With coal dust there is a high risk of an explosion. Management ordered the immediate shut down of the operation and a thorough clean-up to remediate any immediate explosion hazards.
  • Tractus was engaged to investigate the cause of leaks and to confirm whether the facility met the necessary safety codes for this hazardous environment and, if not, to manage the retrofit of the building so it met all safety codes and was engineered to prevent leakage from the coal milling and conveying circuit in the future.

The Project

A detailed engineering and regulatory audit and the selection of a qualified engineering firm were the keys to ensuring all safety risks were mitigated and the facility was compliant with regulations

  • Tractus collaborated with our strategic partner Aurecon Engineering to inspect the facility as well as review all of the licenses and permits and prepared a report of the findings with recommendations.
  • The Report highlighted the following major deficiencies:
    • Entire electrical system including equipment did not meet the correct hazardous or government codes for this environment;
    • Operation was registered incorrectly with the local government;
    • Explosion venting system was inadequate and vented inside the facility instead of externally;
    • Feed elevator had no explosive venting or protection of any kind.
  • Tractus recommended the following major rectifications which the client agreed to undertake:
    • Replace all electric equipment to Class 2 Division II standard;
    • Upgrade the entire electrical system to comply with the same specification;
    • Reroute vent ducting to external walls and install correct explosive vents in each;
    • Upgrade facility walls to meet fire codes;
    • Revise registration with local government.
  • Tractus continued their involvement by managing the entire project through to completion.

The Solution

Operations restarted safely with the correct registration and approvals by the local government

  • After several months, the facility was upgraded to the correct standards and specifications.
  • Negotiations with local government were extensive, but successful and the correct registration was applied for and approval was received.
  • The plant operations were restarted in a safe environment.