Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interesting News Story

Interesting news story came across the wire to me just now, thought Id share it.

A Sugar Factory in Georgia this evening was rocked by an explosion.

One of the most interesting quotes from the article:

"As far as we know, it was a sugar dust explosion," Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor said.

Wait a second, Sugar dust is explosive?!

Strangely enough it didn't take much digging to find this:

"Generally speaking for a sugar dust explosion to occur four conditions must be fulfilled simultaneously; (1) Significant oxygen must be present to support combustion (2) concentration of sugar dust must be within explosive limits (3) the ignition source must be hot enough to ignite the sugar dust cloud (4) The ignition source must release enough energy to ignite the sugar dust cloud."

Even more fascinating to me then that info is this little nugget of knowledge:

"..the values of ignition source temperature may vary between 350 and 850 (degrees Celsius)..."

That's 662 to 1562 Degrees Fahrenheit!!! That my friends is insanity.

I tried searching for what the exact explosive element is in sugar dust but have yet to find it.

Thankfully no one was killed (that's been reported) and there were a few injures.

For more info on sugar dust and its refinements check this out;

Handbook of Sugar Refining: The Manual for the Design and Operation of Sugar Refining Facilities


Deborah Dowd said...

Unfortunately, it turns out there were several fatalities. I would never have thought of a sugar refinery as being a dangerous job, but I guess any industrial operation can be hazardous. Thoughts and prayers to those families whose loved ones will not be coming home at the end of what started out as just another ordinary work day.

The Foodist said...


Thanks for the update. When I read the story there were a few MIA but they thought they just hadn't been located yet.

Its a sad thing, and you never expect it to happen in a sugar refinery. It just goes to show.

Gary said...

Sugar is a fuel (remember that it contains 4 calories per gram... calories are a measure of stored energy). Any fuel, when mixed with the right amount of oxygen, can explode. Dust explosions, especially in flour mills, are an ever-present danger.

Conversely, if the oxygen/fuel ratio is not right, the fuel will just burn without exploding. That's why you can set liquid gasoline on fire -- but if there are gas fumes, lighting a match gets everyone's attention in a flash.

The Foodist said...


Thanks for the bit of info there.

Anonymous said...

I work as a safety manager at a sugar refinery (not in the US) and we have spent millions on reducing the risk of dust explosions. It is a very real risk, and I read with sadness the tragedy that occurred in Georgia. The explosion occurs because the dust is so fine and the sugar can burn (ask my wife when I have baked!) That fine dust has a very high relative surface area compared with sugar crystals and burns very rapidly. The force of the blast then moves the dust that was lying around into the air and that explodes again.

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