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Three seriously injured in explosion at Canadian wood pellet plant

13 February 2019

One man was airlifted to hospital in critical condition following a February 11 explosion at a wood pellet production plant in Entwistle, Alberta. Two others are reported to be in serious condition as a result of the blast at the Pinnacle Renewable Energy plant, and local residents said it rocked buildings nearby. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) are on scene and investigating.

Representative image - Shutterstock
Representative image - Shutterstock

According to CBC News, OHS inspected the plant in December and again in January after workers complained. Those inspections resulted in an order being placed on the worksite regarding equipment safety.

The Entwistle plant started operating last year and created 70 jobs in the area, Parkland County mayor Rob Shaigec said. The company has eight production facilities in Western Canada and one in Alabama, and claims on its website to be the third largest wood pellet producer in the world.

The pellets are used as fuel to burn in stoves and to generate electricity at biomass power plants.

Explosions at Pinnacle plants have happened before, CBC said. In October 2014, an explosion at the company's plant near Burns Lake, British Columbia, sent three people to hospital. The fire broke out in one of the drying units in the plant, which is used to dry wood, including chips and sawdust, before turning them into pellets.

WorkSafe B.C. investigated and found the explosion was caused when an accumulation of flammable gases in a dryer was exposed to high temperatures and oxygen.

It said several of the company's procedures were not followed before the explosion. Pinnacle was fined $56,000 by WorkSafe B.C. as a result of the explosion.

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