What’s the Difference Between Pneumatic and Mechanical Ash Handling Systems?

ash handling systems

No equipment in the fuel handling chain endures as much hardship as the ash handling systems that are set up in facilities around the world. Due to the intense temperatures and abrasive conditions of their environment, many ash handling systems fail to operate properly, which presents a problem for plant managers. Without a reliable ash handling system, how are they supposed to effectively deal with biomass ash debris?

But there’s another question, too, and one that often goes overlooked: is your facility’s current ash handling system the best choice? With more than one option, it’s possible you’re using one when you should be using the other – and today, we’ll explore the difference between pneumatic and mechanical ash handling systems to help you make an educated choice for your plant.

What Is a Pneumatic Ash Handling System?

While pneumatic systems can be good for other types of fuel, for biomass, they tend to come with a few concerns.

In a pneumatic system, particles that made it through the boiler (like sand and other tiny bits of debris) get into the system and transform it into what is essentially a sandblaster. All those particles being blown around can quickly erode the internal equipment, which results in a poorly functioning piece of equipment and some serious safety concerns.

There’s another safety hazard with pneumatic systems that should be considered, too: incomplete combustion of biomass fuels can cause fires and explosions. Because of biomass’s wide variations in moisture levels and heat values, it’s difficult for the boiler operations to always achieve complete combustion of the fuel before it goes into the ash handling system. Because the pneumatic system contains elements that could potentially exacerbate the problem and cause further combustion, a mechanical system is typically the best option.

What Is a Mechanical Ash Handling System?

At their core, mechanical and pneumatic ash handling systems both accomplish the same task. The difference really comes down to safety – which one presents a less hazardous environment for your workers and your equipment?

Mechanical systems don’t come with nearly the same level of fire risk as pneumatic systems do, and they also don’t get as much debris lodged into their inner workings. Unless you have a very good reason to opt for a pneumatic system, when it comes to biomass, mechanical is probably the way to go.

Take a look at our ash handling systems and contact us to find out how we can help your plant become more efficient.