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Are Abrasive Blasting Sparks flammable? – A Complete Guide

If you find yourself sandblasting in an environment where there are potential combustibles nearby or even blasting a product surface that may have had combustible gases within it you may be concerned about the potential Sparks you sometimes see when sandblasting. This article will cover whether or not Sparks from abrasive blasting can create ignition so you can be more aware of whether blast media is an ignition source and whether you can safely blast in these areas. 

The Research on Abrasive Blasting and Whether Sparks Created from It are Flammable

To understand whether the Sparks created from abrasive blasting are flammable we can refer to two primary studies that were conducted on abrasive blast media sparks and their flammability. One Study was done where a flammable gas was continuously introduced into a metal box and into the blast media stream while a steel plate at the back of the box was blasted to create abrasive blasting sparks.  Intermittently during the study a flame would be lit to confirm that flammable gas was significantly present in the box. The second study was done in a similar manner but using a variety of compounds including gas and kerosene. These studies were done to better determine if abrasive blasting could be performed in chemical plants or on ships where flammable materials existed.  

The Findings of the Studies on Flammability of Abrasive Blast Sparks

The two tests both determined that the sparks that can be created from abrasive blasting never generated ignition of the gases in either study suggesting that abrasive blast sparks in and of themselves are not an ignition source. However, their are some other aspects of abrasive blasting that are important to consider related to flammabilty.

Cautions with Abrasive Blast Sparks & Flammability

A few key things that are important about the studies is that the tests were done using air blast. Other forms of abrasive blasting like mechanical wheel blasting were not tested. Additionally, the authors in the studies had to control for static electricity build up because during blasting their is a lot of friction between the product’s surface and the blast media which can result in build up of static electricity. The static electricity could potentially result in a static discharge if it becomes to excessive result in ignition of the flammable substance. To address this issue in the studies the researchers verified that the product they were blasting was grounded so that any static charge that might build up would be immediately carried away to ground. Finally, the tests were done with a few different types of flammable substances but did not necessarily cover all different flammable compounds so the results may not extend to all types of flammable compounds.  

Summary

From the studies that have been conducted there has not been shown to be the possibility of abrasive blast media creating ignition of flammable substances. However the studies done do have limitations and standards that they were performed under. Limitations to the studies include the flammable substances that were used in the tests and how the test was done. The important standards included that the product being blasted was grounded to ensure no static electricity build up.  

Studies about Abrasive Blast Media Sparks and Flammability Referenced

Engineering Approach to a Chemical Plant Coating Program

Sandblasting Petroleum Storage Tanks in Service

Blast Cleaning in Flammable Atmospheres

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