WE6: Safe operation of small scale wood fuelled heat plant

held at Waiariki Institute of Technology, Rotorua on 27 June 2015. 

This half day course was principally for the operators of school, municipal swimming pool and resthome scale heat plant. The course was aimed at school caretakers and facility maintenance staff who are required to operate a wood fuelled heating systems safely and efficiently.

The number of boilers operating on wood fuel in New Zealand continues to grow making good use of a sustainable fuel source and reducing emissions to air.  Some boilers are new installations while others are conversions to wood from coal.  Whether your boiler is a new one or a conversion, the message is the same –

“an efficient and safe boiler is one that is installed correctly and regularly maintained, burns high quality fuel and is under the control of a competent and trained operator”

Operator certification

Schools and other operators of heat plant often have health and safety plans which require a demonstration of competence for operators of facility equipment. The Bioenergy Association has therefore established a scheme for certification and registration of trained wood fuelled heat plant operators that schools and facility owners can utilise.

The Association recommends that heat plant operators undergo training both by installers of a new boilers, or by the company carrying out a conversion, and also that they undertake an independent industry training course.

Safety is a key issue when considering boiler operation.  While boiler accidents do occur, they are largely uncommon. In many cases, heat plant operators have not been adequately trained or are unfamiliar with the technology and or the fuel.  It is especially important that if you change fuel, your operator receives training.  Wood chips and pellets behave quite differently from coal for example.  It is important that new operators are trained and equally so that those who have been doing the job for many years undergo refresher training at least every two years.