Canadian Biomass Magazine

Sharing expertise to prevent fires and explosions in silo operations in Japan

February 6, 2024
By Gordon Murray

Photo: WPAC

In December 2023, more than 70 participants met in Tokyo for a full-day workshop—Safer Biomass Handling and Silo Operations: Preventing Fires and Explosions.

Participants included operators, engineers and maintenance personnel from electric power stations, trade association representatives, researchers, equipment manufacturers, and wood pellet producers from Japan and around the world. Conducted in English and Japanese, the workshop was hosted by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), FutureMetrics, and media partner Canadian Biomass.

The workshop was held in response to customer inquiries requesting best practices to reduce or prevent future incidents and restore trust. Silo fire prevention and suppression requires a unique approach. Risks include combustible dust, structural collapse, and smoulders that can result in fire and explosions.

During the morning session, Kayleigh Rayner Brown, MASc, P.Eng., Director at Obex Risk, discussed biomass handling and storage considerations such as the generation of combustible dust and gas as well as off-gassing and emissions. The group explored self-heating and the factors that can initiate self-heating. The fundamentals of combustible dust and combustible were also described, as well as the conditions that can lead to fires and explosions.


The second topic was effective approaches to fire suppression, presented by John Swaan, Operations and Project Development Expert, with FutureMetrics. John shared his experience, as well as other facilities that have successfully implemented nitrogen inerting systems, and the successes of those systems in addressing silo fire hazards.

The afternoon session included a hands-on group activity, where participants went through a response plan to a fire situation. Kayleigh and John highlighted real-life silo fire examples, including responses, action plans, and preventative measures. The factors for reducing fire risk associated with biomass storage and the key actions of a silo fire response plan were also covered. Participants reviewed the key measures they can take in the event of a silo fire at their own operations and shared how they will use the workshop information to ensure safer silos.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and the strength of the industry’s ongoing collaboration to ensure safer biomass storage and workplaces.

Due to overwhelming interest in the topic, the workshop will be held again in May. Keep an eye out at for information on the dates.

The presentations for the workshop in both English and Japanese can be found at

Gordon Murray is the executive director at the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.

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