Preventing catastrophe: ethanol employees attend safety boot camp

Ethanol safety boot camp (KHGI)

KEARNEY, Neb. - With 24 ethanol plants in Nebraska, experts say minimizing risks and dangers is critical.

"Ethanol is used as a fuel, so it is combustible and flammable," said Nebraska Ethanol Board technical adviser, Hunter Flodman. "There are other chemicals within the facility that could potentially pose a hazard if they're misused or mistreated."

Thirty ethanol employees from across the country and especially Nebraska are hoping to prevent them by attending the four–day University of Nebraska-Lincoln Process Safety Boot Camp.

"We have experts in process safety from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Center for Chemical Process Safety, which are considered the world experts of process safety, " said Flodman"We have a lot of small ethanol plants in Nebraska, so it wouldn't necessarily be feasible for one plant to bring in the quality of training that we have here."

Course work includes lectures, case studies and group brainstorming.

"It's important because we can learn a lot from each other," said Flodman. "We're all from different plants and so something that works for example at an ethanol plant in Minden might work, be helpful for the ethanol plant somewhere else. So, we're learning from each other as well as learning from the instructors."

"Instead of reinventing the wheel, the best way to learn is from each other," said Joe Oswalt, E Energy Adams environmental health safety manager. "What works at your plant verses my plant and what doesn't work, we've tried that, it didn't work, here's why."

It is also an opportunity to learn from one another's tragedies.

"One of the participants in the class said that they did have an explosion at their ethanol plant but they're from out of state, they're one of our neighbors in Iowa," said Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership project specialist Matthew Jorgensen. "So, it's a good opportunity for them to bring what has happened at their plant to the rest of these plants and then for us here in Nebraska to learn from their experience as well."

Looking ahead, the Nebraska Ethanol Board will be holding an environmental health and safety summit coming up in October.

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