Safety first

My architect, Paul, suggested that I hire a code consultant to review the distillery plans to make sure they meet the Ontario building and fire code. I’ve read several stories of distillers running into code issues so I hired Morrison Hershfield, Canada’s top code consultant to advise us. Matt Jardine, a fire code expert at MH, prepared a very comprehensive report for me. The Ontario Building Code doesn’t have any specific requirements for distilleries, however, the Fire Code has an entire section for them. Matt explained that the Fire Code was written for very large industrial distilleries so some of the requirements are not appropriate for a smaller operation like ours. Explosion venting is one such requirement. An explosion vent allows an explosion to exit the building without damaging equipment or the building structure. I’ve never heard of an explosion vent before but found several cool examples on YouTube. So can you blow yourself up distilling? Yes, it’s possible. Ethanol vapor at the right concentration is explosive. If our still had a leak and the ethanol vapor left to accumulate, it could be ignited to cause an explosion. The team at Mythbusters did exactly this in this video. One of Matt’s recommendations is to have continuous ventilation to prevent an accumulation of ethanol vapor. In addition, he suggests a system that triggers a second ventilation system if a dangerous amount of ethanol vapor is detected. As a further precaution, Matt recommended that all electrical equipment within 1.5m of the stills be “explosion proof” to remove any possible ignition sources. With these precautions in place, we would practically eliminate the chance of an ethanol vapor explosion. To completely rule out the need for explosion venting, Matt modeled the force of our worst case ethanol vapor explosion and found it couldn't damage the building’s structure. I feel much more confident manning the still after this due diligence.