Panelboard emission control: An historical perspective

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Courtesy of Lundberg, LLC

Sometimes the best view of the future can be seen from the past. That's why we've written this paper. We believe that an understanding of the history of emission controls in the panelboard industry will help everyone understand how this industry got to where it is and what the future holds. This account focuses on the evolution of technology devoted to the control of air pollution emissions from dryers and presses on the principal panelboard manufacturing processes: OSB, particleboard and MDF. Our focus will be North America. Our intent is to discuss the trends as they developed, illustrate some of the important mistakes that were made and to give the reader a sense for what the future may bring.

The Early Days
The enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the coincident creation of the Environmental Protection Agency was a dramatic change for industry in North America. Gone were the days of reckless disregard for the environment. Coming was a still growing role of environmental concerns, regulations and ethics. For the panelboard industry, however, environmental pressures remained slight throughout the 1970s. During this period, pollution control of dryers and presses was driven by local concerns, if at all. The U.S. EPA had larger fish to fry and the states and localities were scrambling to catch up with Federal mandates.

While the regulators scrambled, there was some significant research done by industry. For example, NCASI published several background papers that categorized dryer emissions and continue to provide a valuable insight into this subject. Therewere also several attempts in academia and industry at the development of practical emission control technologies to abate dryer emissions.

In the Northwest, certain locales with heavy concentrations of plywood manufacturing brought pressure on operators to install air pollution control equipment for dryers. In Oregon's Willamette Valley many indirectly-heated veneer dryers were equipped with low-energy wet scrubbers, which did a reasonable job of reducing the familiar blue haze. Also, some direct-fired dryers were equipped with gravel bed filters. None, however, were successful in eliminatingXhe dryer smoke; only reducing it.

Before 1980 there was no significant emission control in the waferboard (OSB), particleboard and MDF world beyond secondary cyclones.

The Eighties
Seven years after the Clean Air Act, the first Clean Air Act amendments were passed. By the early 1980s the effects were beginning to be felt in the panelboard industry. Despite the election of a conservative administration the force of these two federal laws was having the desired effect on states and the local air pollution agencies. One-by-one State Implementation Plans mandated by the EPA were put in place along with powerful regulations demanding pollution abatement from industry. The pressure was greatest in the Northwest.

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