No one was injured when an explosion rocked Pacific BioEnergy’s wood pellet plant shortly after noon, Monday.
Company spokesman Kevin Brown said there was 16 employees at the plant when an explosion occurred in the plant’s baghouse. The baghouse filters particulate out of the air after the pellets are processed.
“It is suspected the fire started in the plant itself,” he said. “Pressure built up in the baghouse and it blew off the doors. Those doors that are blown off are designed to blow off if the pressure builds up to high.”
The plant has been in operation since August, when Pacific BioEnergy relocated to the BCR Industrial Site from their former site outside city limits.
“It was a normal start up on a Monday. There was no problems until now,” he said.
The plant was designed to produce 200,000 tonne of wood pellets for the European bioenergy market and was producing 150,000 tonnes per year at the time of the explosion.
Plant staff and fire fighters were still assessing the extent of the damage as of press time. It’s unknown how long it will take to repair damages and get operational again.
“It’ll take awhile, I suspect,” Brown said.
Gord Boyd was driving by when the explosion occurred.
“It was one quick blow and then second. I looked and saw a 40-foot fireball at the base of the hopper, and then there was a second one over there,” Boyd said, pointing at the baghouse building. “Then I saw the roof vent come off. I thought things were going to start flying, so I figured it was time to exit stage left.”
The blasts blew the approximately 10-metre tall blast doors on the side of the baghouse building out; scorched nearby machinery and set several fires.
Prince George fire fighters from three halls were on scene for several hours extinguishing fires and cooling down hotspots.
“There is a lot of fine particulate matter dust which could have caused it,” Fire Chief Jeff Rowland said.
Fire crews were able to prevent the fires from spreading to the plant’s large silos full of pellets.