Product Details Supplier Info More products

CSB has released its final draft report of the explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, on 7 February, 2008.

Investigators said the explosion resulted from ongoing releases of sugar from inadequately designed and maintained dust-collection equipment, conveyors, and sugar handling equipment.

Housekeeping practices allowed highly combustible sugar dust and granulated sugar to build up throughout the refinery’s packing buildings, CSB investigators concluded.

The first explosion, or primary event, is likely to have occurred inside a sugar conveyor located beneath two large sugar storage silos.

The conveyor had recently been enclosed with steel panels creating a confined, unventilated space where sugar dust could accumulate to an explosive concentration.

Sugar dust inside the enclosed conveyor was most likely ignited by an overheated bearing, causing an explosion that traveled into the adjacent packing buildings, dislodging sugar dust accumulations and spilled sugar located on equipment, floors, and other horizontal surfaces.

The CSB has released a four-minute computer animation depicting the sequence of events that led to the accident.

The 3D animation will be included in a CSB Safety Video on the Imperial disaster that will be issued shortly after the final report is approved and will be available on the agency website.

John Vorderbrueggen, CSB Investigation Supervisor, said, ‘Imperial’s management, as well as the managers at the Port Wentworth refinery, did not take effective actions over many years to control dust explosion hazards – even as smaller fires and explosions continued to occur at their plants and other sugar facilities around the country.’ The report said the company had not conducted evacuation drills for its employees and that the explosions and fires disabled most of the emergency lighting, making it difficult for workers to escape from the explosion-damaged buildings as the fires continued to spread.

The final report proposed a series of safety recommendations for Board consideration.

Imperial Sugar was urged to comply with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommended practices for preventing dust fires and explosions, develop dust training and housekeeping programmes, and improve its evacuation procedures.

The report also called on industry groups AIB International and the American Bakers Association to develop combustible dust training and auditing materials.

US Chemical Safety Board

View full profile