Periodically, we try to answer some of the questions that are asked from us by industry, health and safety groups, governments and regulatory departments, and educational institutions.

In general, we post those questions that are within the scope of our business activity, are of significant current EHS value to the industry, and where our answers can make the difference in preventing unnecessary injury or loss of life.

Environmental, Health & Safety Dialogue
Pulp and Paper Industry

You asked us:

1 - Has hydrochloric ( muriatic ) acid resulted in any actual recent explosion in a major pulp and paper mill?
2 - Is hydrochloric acid in R2 category?
3 - How does XENTEX eliminate the potential explosions with hydrochloric ( muriatic ) acid?
4 - What are some of the incentives of an alternative acid?
5 - Why alternative products are not widely used?

Our Answers:

A hydrochloric tank explosion at a pulp and paper mill took out the tank and in the ensuing weeks, sent everyone from maintenance to purchasing and health & safety scrambling for answers and alternatives. Fortunately, no one was hurt this time!

1 - This actual mishap occurred on December 14, 1995 and it was yet another reminder that inhibited or uninhibited hydrochloric (muriatic) acid can result in explosions. It happened when a welder lit his torch at a fair distance away from the inhibited muriatic acid tank.

2 - By definition, "R2" code implies Risk of explosion by shock, friction, fire, or other sources of ignition which obviously applies to hydrochloric acid when in contact with metallic parts.

3 - At XENTEX, we make safer acidic compounds for cleaning and descaling use in pulp and paper mills, but often we are invited to make a sales call when the mill is in the aftermath of a mishap.

4 - If the pulp and paper mill had instituted one of our programs, using our safer alternatives to hydrochloric acid before the tank blew, they would have ended up with a tank still standing, many personnel days of time not lost, and thousands of dollars in direct and indirect costs remaining in their cash flow.

5 - We have heard the common claim: " We've had no accident or injury with our acid cleaning", right? Well, we only hear this before the first explosion. After the first explosion, only some opt for another equally unsafe alternative, others have become quite knowledgeable about chemicals and they have improved the health and safety environment at their workplace by choosing the safest possible chemicals to work with. Yet, we know of some pulp and paper mills that have not had any acid related explosions and have chosen to replace their hydrochloric acid with safer alternatives. In fact, it was due to the foresight of the latter pulp and paper mills that we were invited to develop better acid cleaning products for the industry. Today, in addition to our safer alternative products, we are supplying the mills that use hydrochloric acid with some of the unspoken information in our free of charge Pulp & Paper Literature 610. Besides, we know of no other way of preserving the environment and our potential clients than by talking the mills out of blowing themselves up.

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