Static grounding protection for Type C FIBC located in potentially combustible dust atmospheres

Flexible bulk bags, such as FIBCs, are used in a range of industrial applications. Powders and bulk solids tend to be the primary material to be loaded into the bags and transported to other locations, causing dust to envelope the plant and static electricity to build up on the transfer pipes and hoses. Together, these are a dangerous mix and without proper safety protocols, could cause a static discharge incident, resulting in fires or explosions.

This application spotlight highlights the precautions that can, and should, be taken with Type C FIBS bags to eliminate the risk of such an incident.

Type C bags are designed to dissipate static electricity through static dissipative threads that are interwoven through the bag’s material. Grounding tabs located on the bags are points where grounding systems can be connected to ensure static electricity does not accumulate on the bag. To ensure bags destined for use in hazardous areas will not accumulate static electricity to hazardous levels there are several standards that provide guidance on the key parameters to which Type C bags must comply.

Checking and grounding Type C bags

When a company wishes to utilise Type C bags they must provide a means for grounding the bag. This can be achieved with either passive (single pole clamp and cable) or active means (monitoring systems), but given the scale of the charge that can build up on bags and the resulting energies that can be reached by static sparks, in combination with the presence of a combustible dust cloud, an active grounding system is the better choice.

This is because the system can determine whether or not the bag’s construction complies with the recommendations of the standards highlighted above and will also ensure the bag is grounded for the duration of the filling / emptying operation. The primary benefit of checking the resistance through the bag is to ensure that after many cycles of repeated use, the static dissipative threads are functioning correctly and, more importantly, to ensure that bags not of Type C construction are not permitted to be used in the hazardous area. Additional benefits with grounding systems are that they can control the movement of the powder through output contacts interlocked with valves or PLCs.

The illustration highlights how a bag can be checked for its static dissipative capability in combination with providing active grounding of the bag. Following the connection of two quick release clamps, the Earth-Rite® FIBC system will identify if the bag is operating in accordance with the relevant standard. This is achieved by sending an Intrinsically Safe (Hazloc approved) signal (red line in the illustration) through the bag. If the green ground status indicators pulse continuously, the operators know the bag is grounded.

The system verifies the grounding of the bag by ensuring the signal returns via a verified true earth ground. If there is any charge on the bag it will leave the bag via the static dissipative threads to the verified ground. If the output contacts are interlocked with the process then the material cannot flow without the permission of the operator.

Ensure the grounding system you select is specific to the type of bag in use on site

If a grounding system is selected that monitors a narrow range of resistance, for example, monitors from 0 ohms up to 50 meg-ohms, this creates a problem and this problem could have two outcomes.

The first is that if 10 meg-ohm bags are specified for the site, the system could pass faulty bags as it will pass any bag that shows a resistance from 10 meg-ohms up to 50 meg-ohms. A direct consequence of this feature is that it could be passing bags not manufactured in accordance with IEC-61340-4-4 and the recommendations of NFPA77.

The second outcome is if 100 meg-ohm bags are specified for the site. As the grounding system has a cut-off resistance of 50 megohms, it will fail any bag that is operating between 50 meg-ohms and 100 meg-ohms. A direct consequence of this problem is that the system could reject a bag that is perfectly adequate and result in delayed operations while the operators are replacing the bag.

For helpful tips, guidance on standards and further information, you can download the full application spotlight document here >>

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