Karoo Deep Drilling

An interesting read on the drilling being done in the Karoo Basin.  Enjoy!

Karoo Deep Drilling

Council for Geoscience starts deep drilling in Karoo basin

Mining Weekly – Source

September 2020 – Marleny Arnoldi

“The Council for Geoscience (CGS) on September 21 launched Phase 2 of the Karoo Deep Drilling and Geo-environmental Base Programme (KDD), in Beaufort West.

The council, as mandated by the Department of Minerals and Energy, in 2016 initiated the research programme to investigate the resource potential of the Karoo basin, which is anticipated to have between 30-trillion and 500-trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas, and possibly uranium, methane or coal resources, according to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa.

The United States Energy Information Administration in 2013 estimated that South Africa has the eighth-largest shale gas reserve in the world, at about 390 tcf of technically recoverable shale gas.

The KDD programme is also targeted at identifying the potential environmental impacts that could arise from shale gas development in the Karoo.

The KDD will provide scientific evidence to inform policy development and regulatory frameworks on shale gas exploration and extraction, which CGS CEO Mosa Mabuza says can be a significant addition to South Africa’s energy mix and the economy as a whole.

Shale gas is a natural gas consisting primarily of methane and about 20% higher hydrocarbons, such as ethane.

Finding domestic gas feedstock will diversify South Africa’s energy mix and reduce carbon emissions. However, South Africa cannot make an environmental assessment of the Karoo’s shale gas exploitation by hydraulic fracturing within the current legal framework.

Therefore, the KDD serves as a baseline study for future shale gas research work and plays a vital role in the review of petroleum regulations.

Phase 2 of the programme involves CGS establishing a geo-environmental baseline and putting in place environmental monitoring mechanisms.

The council had contracted Major Drilling to undertake drilling for a 3.5-km-deep vertical stratigraphic core borehole over the next 10 to 12 months. This borehole is aimed at intersecting the formation earmarked to have the highest potential for shale gas.

CGS also aims for the drilling to intersect deep brackish groundwater to understand its location and advise how it can be managed to avoid contamination with fresh water during further exploration and exploitation activities.

During Phase 1 of the KDD, CGS consulted with local communities, the Beaufort West municipality and other interested parties, and have since been given the “thumbs up” to proceed with the programme.

Phase 1 comprised geological and structural mapping activities at a regional scale, including hydrogeology, airborne and ground geophysics, environmental screening and seismic monitoring.

Environmental consultants were part of the CGS’s stakeholder engagement process and had given the green light for the council to proceed with Phase 2 of the programme.

The initial drilling stages of the project had already proven beneficial to the Beaufort West communities, with CGS having discovered five 169-m-deep shallow observation wells in November 2017 – two of which have the capacity to yield good quality groundwater of up to 33-million litres a month.

This discovery coincided with the unprecedented drought that the Western Cape experienced at the time. CGS subsequently donated the two boreholes to the Beaufort West municipality to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

To date, the municipality had pumped almost 400-million litres of water to the people of Beaufort West.

Phases 3 and 4 of the KDD will involve borehole results analyses and post-drilling monitoring.

There remains concern about the impact of shale gas exploration and production in South Africa and questions about whether South Africa has sufficient viable shale gas reserves.

Nelson Mandela University Africa Earth Observatory’s Maarten de Wit in the South African Journal of Science in 2011 wrote about his concerns around shale gas discovery and extraction in South Africa.

At the time, he said it was not known with any degree of certainty how much gas may be beneath the Karoo and that, even if there was enough, it was uncertain whether the gas could be tapped without damaging other subsurface resources.

“Conservationists argue that extraction of the gas will leave massive irreparable environmental scars on one of South Africa’s iconic landscapes, while there may well be human health hazards pending from associated chemical pollution.”

However, he also acknowledges that gas is generally considered to be a cleaner source of energy than coal. This is especially welcome, given carbon emission targets that South Africa has, in light of climate change.

De Wit stated that shale gas is a bridging fuel toward renewable energy sources and an opportunity to wean the country’s grid off coal. “This approach will require holistic valuations that are yet to be attempted in either of the Karoo camps.”

Professor Bob Scholes of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Global Change Institute says studies by the Academy of Science of South Africa suggest that it is increasingly unlikely that economically and technically viable gas can be found in the Karoo.

In the absence of new exploration and testing up to now, the upper limit of gas in the Central Karoo had been estimated at 20 tcf.

Scholes points out that this is a tiny resource by global standards. In terms of energy content, 20 tcf of gas is about 40 times smaller than the known remaining coal reserves in South Africa.

Conventional gas reserves offshore of Mozambique have been estimated at 75 tcf, he adds.

Nonetheless, even a small viable gas find in South Africa can transform the national energy economy.

Mabuza tells Engineering News & Mining Weekly that even 1 tcf of gas can be economically exploited and benefit the national power grid and the economy. He expressed confidence in the KDD proving the safety and viability of the Karoo’s shale gas resource over the next few years.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Tire Dust

So it’s not just our exhausts that cause pollution when we drive, but our tires cause dust too!  See how a few UK student’s have invented something to capture this dust.

Tire Dust

UK Student’s Invention Captures Tire Dust, Promises to Curb Pollution

Source –  News Wheel – By Whitney Russell

“A group of British students known as The Tyre Collective recently won this year’s James Dyson Award for an invention that captures tire dust. (Because apparently car tires, not just their engines, are a major source of pollution.) Here’s what you should know about tire dust and the students’ innovative solution that promises to curb microplastic pollution.

Each year in Europe, vehicles produce half a million tons of tire particles, as the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health confirms. These particles then enter the air and (eventually) water sources, which can cause developmental issues and lung disease in humans. Per Reuters, it’s also the second-largest source of microplastic pollution in the ocean (single-use plastic is the top offender, as you might have guessed).

That’s where The Tyre Collective comes in. Hugo Richardson, one of the members of the team, commented on their winning invention. “Everyone focuses on air pollution being directly from the engines themselves. […] But tire wear is a huge contributor to that. ]…] That’s partly down to its microscopic size and the fact that you don’t obviously see it all the time.”

Per Reuters’, the team’s invention is comprised of a device that fits snugly around the tire’s edges. It captures dust particles at their source by using the wheel’s aerodynamics as well as electrostatics when the vehicle is in motion. In a controlled environment during the testing phase, the team found that this solution can collect 60 percent of all airborne particles that tires emit.

The Tyre Collective’s solution arrives at just the right time as the auto industry continues to shift more toward electric vehicles. Though EVs promise to curb air pollution, their heavier weights (due to heavy electric motors) could lead to an increase in air- and waterborne tire pollution.

The team is currently pursuing a patent for their design. If applied on a global level, this invention promises to help make the air and water a bit cleaner for all of us.”



Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Air Purifiers Can Help Reduce Airborne Contaminants

Here is a great article from Consumersadvocate.org regarding air purifiers. Jaroldi Gonzalez tells us that according to EPA, when used properly, air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants including viruses in a home or confined space.

I have included an extract of the article below – please follow the link provided to read the full article at source – https://www.consumersadvocate.org/air-purifiers


“Best Air Purifiers Based on In-Depth Reviews
A comprehensive guide to the best air purifiers for clean and quality air in your home or office.


We considered air cleaners that are best suited for all room sizes, taking into account the height of the ceilings and the size of the purifier. Oversizing is encouraged.

The best air purifiers have true to size CADR ratings, meaning “clean air delivery rate.” The higher the CADR, the larger the room it can clean.

We favored companies with a solid track record for answering customer concerns and inquiries about proper care and problems with the purifiers.


Do you know what’s in the air you breathe? According to the 2019 State of the Air Report by the American Lung Association, “In 2015-2017, more cities had high days of ozone and short-term particle pollution compared to 2014-2016, and many cities measured increased levels of year-round particle pollution.” Here you can look up your home state’s stats to see its level of air pollution.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that pollutants inside the home can affect your overall health. These pollutants can come from outdoor contaminants, but they can also be emitted from inside the home through daily routines such as cooking, cleaning, and personal grooming. Furniture lacquers, home building materials, and consumer products such as computer printers can also give off contaminants.

If you’re allergic or asthmatic, you’ve probably wondered what air particles are floating around in your home. While airborne allergens like dust, pollen, and pet dander are commonly known, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are less so. The most common VOCs are trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene, which are found in everyday household products such as cosmetics, building materials, carpets, furniture, dry-cleaned clothes, home office appliances, cleaning chemicals, and air fresheners.

If inhaled in high quantities, VOCs can have harmful effects on your health. According to a NASA study on indoor air pollution, this phenomenon is called “sick building syndrome.” This happens when there is superinsulation and low air exchange in a living area such as a home or apartment. According to the EPA, most of us spend about 90% of our time indoors, either at home or at the office. Which begs the question, why don’t we take a more proactive stance on improving the air quality in our homes?

Air purifiers, also known as air cleaners or air sanitizers, are portable machines that can filter the air in indoor spaces. The companies reviewed here surpassed the industry standard for efficiency and effectiveness in purifying indoor air. Further on, we will give you the facts on what’s in the air you breathe, how to improve your air quality, and what to avoid when shopping for a purifier.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust Explosions

Dust can be a dangerous thing!  It can literally cause explosions!  Here is some interesting information on dust explosions and what causes them as well as news of an event that took place in Tilbuy, England in August this year.


Dust Explosions

“Dust explosions occur when combustible dusts build up in the air and combust rapidly, causing a strong pressure wave to form. They are a deadly hazard in a variety of workplaces, from grain silos to plastics factories. A dust explosion requires several factors to be present at once. These include:

A combustible dust at the right concentration level
An enclosed space
An ignition source

Sometimes these factors are combined into a graphic known as the “Dust Explosion Pentagon.” The component in this graphic called “dispersion” is also known as concentration. If a concentration of dust is too low, there is not enough of it present to fuel an explosion. If the concentration is too high, there is not enough oxygen to support combustion.

While some combustible dusts are easy to guess—wood and paper dust, for example—others aren’t, such as aluminum dust. Combustible dusts become more dangerous as particulates become finer. These dusts feature a high ratio of surface area to volume, adding to their combustibility. When these dusts combine with oxygen within a range of concentrations, a dust explosion is possible.

In these conditions, all that is needed for an explosion is an ignition source. This source can be anything from a cigarette to a spark to an overheated wheel bearing. Under the right conditions, some combustible dusts can self-ignite as a result of static that builds up as particulates rub against one another. The ignition causes the dust to combust quickly—a process called deflagration that creates a wave of high air pressure. Sometimes this explosion can stir dust that has settled in the space, creating a cloud of new dust—a fuel source for an enormous secondary explosion. A dust explosion can blow out walls in a facility and kill or injure workers within the space or nearby.”

Source – https://robovent.com/frequently-asked-questions/what-is-a-dust-explosion/#:~:text=Dust%20explosions%20occur%20when%20combustible,to%20be%20present%20at%20once.


“Dust explosions pose the most serious and widespread of explosion hazards in the process industry alongside vapour cloud explosions (VCE) and boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions (BLEVE). Dust explosions almost always lead to serious financial losses in terms of damage to facilities and down time. They also often cause serious injuries to personnel, and fatalities. We present the gist of the dust explosion state-of-the-art. Illustrative case studies and past accident analyses reflect the high frequency, geographic spread, and damage potential of dust explosions across the world. The sources and triggers of dust explosions, and the measures with which different factors associated with dust explosions can be quantified are reviewed alongside dust explosion mechanism. The rest of the review is focused on the ways available to prevent dust explosion, and on cushioning the impact of a dust explosion by venting when the accident does take place.”

Source – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6605341_Dust_explosions_-_Cases_causes_consequences_and_control


Tilbury Port Grain store blast caused by ‘dust explosion’
Published20 August

For the original article – BBC News – Click here

“A blast that partially destroyed the roof of a large grain store was caused by a rare “dust explosion”, a fire service has said.
The explosion at Tilbury Port on 3 July was described as “like a bomb going off” with flames 75m (246ft) high.
Essex Fire and Rescue said the cause of the fire was recorded as “accidental” and no-one was injured.
“Dust explosions like this are very rare but occur if the dust reaches a flammable temperature,” it said.
The port said it had commenced “a phased start-up of operations at the terminal” last week.
When crews they found grain on fire inside the plant but were able to remove unaffected grain so it did not ignite.
Fire crews remained on site for 20 days extinguishing fires in the grain stores and preventing damage to the site.

A metal dust explosion in 2014 caused a blast that tore through a plant in eastern China, killing 75 people.
And 14 people died in an explosion at a sugar refinery, caused by exploding sugar dust, in the US state of Georgia in 2008.

Peter Ward, commercial director of the Port of Tilbury, said grain handling and storage had carried on at the port shortly after the fire.
He said the phased return to full operations was “a credit to our port team and their fantastic effort to restore the facility during these challenging times”.
The grain terminal at Tilbury opened in 1969 and is the UK’s largest, according to the port’s owners.”



Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.


Can Dust Be Good For You?

Are there any benefits to dust in your home?  Most of us would instantly say “No!”  But Wendy Leung makes a good argument for the opposite – read her article from The Globe and Mail  – This article was published more than 9 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

Can Dust Be Good For You?

“Bad news, neat freaks. All that work you’ve done to keep your homes dust-free may be counter-productive.

A new study has found that household dust actually purifies the air by neutralizing harmful ozone, according to The Canadian Press.

The gross part is it’s the flakes of human skin in dust that gives it its ozone-fighting power.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society found that dust containing high amounts of squalene, a component in human skin, can reduce up to 15 per cent of ozone in the air. (Ozone, when present in the air we breathe instead of high up in the atmosphere, is a pollutant that can damage our lungs, The Canadian Press explains.)

“Dust is parts of…people that have been in that room,” researcher Charles Weschler told The Canadian Press. “I mean, that’s a gross way of thinking about it.”

Squalene is present in the oils of our skin, which makes humans “remarkably good ozone sinks,” Dr. Weschler said.

Humans shed up to 500 million skin cells per day, so just think of all the ozone-neutralizing bits of your body that are scattered around your home.

The Canadian Press warns you may not want to retire your feather duster just yet, though.

Sure, it may clear up some of the ozone in the air, but the dust itself can leave allergy-sufferers wheezing.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Why monitor dust in the workplace?

This is a great article by Josh Thomas of Enviro-tech on the importance of monitoring dust in the workplace.  Enjoy the read!

Please note that the regulations stated are applicable in the United Kingdom.

Monitoring dust in the workplace

“Why monitor dust in the workplace?

Almost any place of employment can present a potential threat to health and safety from airborne particulates and aerosols. It is important to note, however, that dust hazards are not necessarily visible to the human eye and that the finest particles can represent the greatest threat because of their ability to travel deepest into the lungs. Effective monitoring is therefore key to the implementation of an effective risk management strategy.

There are two major reasons for monitoring dust in the workplace; to enable air quality management, and for regulatory compliance. The immediate effects of dust can be irritation to eyes, headaches, fatigue, coughing and sneezing. As such, poor indoor air quality can lower employee performance and cause increased absenteeism through sickness. In addition, particulates are known to create long-term deleterious effects, contributing to serious illnesses. In combination with outdoor exposure (to pollution form vehicles for example), the Government has estimated that 29,000 premature deaths occur in the UK every year as a result of particle pollution. This means that, particularly in urban areas, natural ventilation may not necessarily improve indoor air quality.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that staff and visitors are not exposed to poor air quality in the workplace, so it is necessary to conduct monitoring. Accurate and effective monitoring data can be used to check exposure levels and to help identify safe working practices.

Monitoring also helps to demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations. COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), employers can prevent or reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous substances by finding out what the health hazards are; by deciding how to prevent harm to health; by providing effective control measures; by providing information and training; by providing monitoring and health surveillance, and by planning for emergencies.

In order to evaluate workplace safety, monitoring data is compared with Workplace Exposure levels (WELs) which prescribe the maximum exposure level to a hazardous substance over a set period of time. Failure to comply with COSHH and WELs can result in financial penalties, prosecutions and civil claims.

Indoor air quality is affected by both internal and external factors. Air pollution may arise from external sources such as neighbouring factories, building and development activities, or from vehicles – especially those with diesel engines. Internally, air quality is affected by working practices and business processes. For example, dust may arise from raw materials such as powders, or it may be produced by processes that generate particulates; including dust, mist, aerosols and smoke. In all cases, internal and external, it is important to identify both the source and the seriousness of the problem, so that appropriate and effective mitigation measures can be implemented. These might include, for example, ventilation, process dust prevention, the management of shift patterns, personal protection equipment (PPE) and alarm systems.

Regulatory Requirements to Monitor

Under the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess and control risks to protect their employees. A key element of this is the requirement to comply with the COSHH Regulations. The HSE says that exposure measurement is required:

• For COSHH assessment, to help select the right controls

• Where there is a serious risk to health from inhalation

• To check that exposure limits are not exceeded

• To check the performance of exposure controls

• To help select the right respiratory protection equipment

• To check exposure following a change in a process

• To show any need for health surveillance; or

• When an inspector issues an ‘Improvement Notice’
requiring monitoring

The COSSH Regulations include dust, mist, vapour, fumes and chemicals, but they do not cover Lead or Asbestos. Specific requirements exist for certain industries such as construction. Generally, WELs relate to particulate diameter because the health effects of particulates are heavily influenced by their size.

Inhalable dust is that which enters the nose or mouth during breathing and is available for deposition in the respiratory tract. It includes particles with a width between 2.5 and 10 microns (PM2.5 – PM10), and the WEL for this fraction is 10 mg/m3 as an 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA).

Respirable dust is the fraction that penetrates deep into the gas exchange region of the lungs. It includes particles with a width between 1 and 2.5 microns (PM1– PM2.5), and the WEL for this fraction is 4 mg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Lower specific WELs exist for particulates that present a greater threat to health. For example, Silica dusts have a WEL of just 0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust as an 8-hour TWA.

The Costs of Non-Compliance

In addition to the enormous numbers of premature deaths that result from exposure to outdoor air pollution, there are also numerous well-documented instances demonstrating the harm caused by exposure to indoor pollution from dust, smoke, aerosols and vapour. For example, a 46-year-old cook developed breathing problems after working with flour in a school kitchen with poor ventilation. Her breathing problems became so severe that she could hardly walk and had to sleep sitting up. She became severely asthmatic and had to retire early on health grounds. With the support of her Union she made a compensation claim on the basis that decent working conditions were not provided, and the council admitted that it had not taken sufficient action despite repeated complaints. Consequently, the courts awarded the cook £200,000 in damages.

In another example, between 1995 and 2004, a solderer was exposed to rosin based solder fumes and suffered health deterioration and breathing problems including asthma. An investigation conducted by the HSE found that the company did not have adequate control measures in place and failed to install fume extraction equipment. Furthermore, the company did not employ rosin-free solder until December 2003, despite an assessment having identified the need in 1999. The company was subsequently fined £100,000 with £30,000 costs, a punishment which attracted both local and national media attention.

Monitoring Dust

A wide variety of methods exist for the measurement of dust, and the choice of equipment is dictated by the application. For example, it is obviously important to employ a technology that is able to measure the particulates that will be present. In addition, it will be necessary to determine whether monitoring should be continuous, at a single point, or whether portable instruments are necessary to check multiple locations. Monitoring might be conducted in a work space, or personal sampling might be undertaken in order to assess the exposure of an individual over an entire shift.

Personal Sampling Pumps represent the preferred method for workplace exposure monitoring where it is necessary to demonstrate regulatory compliance or where legal dispute is a possibility. An HSE document (MDHS 14/4) provides workplace exposure monitoring guidance for collecting respirable, thoracic and inhalable aerosol fractions. The samples collected by this process are analysed in a laboratory, which means that chemical analysis is also possible. However, the sampling method incurs a delay and incurs extra cost.

In response to the wide variety of applications and monitoring requirements, Ashtead Technology stocks a comprehensive range of monitors for both sale and rental, providing customers with complete financial and technical flexibility. As a TSI Gold Partner, Ashtead Technology provides a comprehensive range of maintenance and calibration services; helping customers to ensure that their monitoring equipment remains in optimal condition. Ashtead’s fleet of rental equipment includes large numbers of the latest TSI instruments, supported by the highest levels of service and technical assistance. Employing advanced light-scattering laser photometers, the TSI products are supplied with a calibration certificate and provide real-time, direct-reading aerosol monitoring and analysis of different particulate fractions in workplace, cleanroom, HVAC, fugitive emissions and environmental monitoring applications.

The TSI range of dust monitors is continually being developed to bring new levels of functionality to the market. For example, the new lightweight AM520 Personal Dust Monitor is able to measure and log PM10, Respirable (PM4), PM5 (China Respirable), PM2.5, PM1 or 0.8µm Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), providing real-time audible and visual alarms, and running from a rechargeable battery for up to 20 hours. For outdoor applications, the MCERTS approved Environmental DustTrak is web-enabled, providing a quick and easy dust monitoring solution for applications such as building and development projects.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust From Factory Farms

Agricultural activities can cause a lot of dust – but what is it that is in that dust?  Tom Philpott reports for Mother Jones on the topic of what is carried in the dust from factory farms.

Factory Farms - dust

“Dust From Factory Farms Carries Drugs, Poop Bacteria, and Antibiotic-Resistant Genes Far and Wide

Ever approached a feedlot teeming with thousands of cattle? Unlike industrialized hog and chicken farms, where huge enclosed buildings trap at least some of the smell, cattle feedlots are open-air—as anyone who has driven Highway 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco can testify. Turns out, when you inhale the aroma, you’re not just getting a blast of ammonia and other noxious fumes. You’re also probably breathing in tiny particles of antibiotics, bacteria from cows’ “fecal matter and  gut flora,” and antibiotic-resistant gene sequences. That’s the conclusion of a new study from Texas Tech researchers, who analyzed air samples taken just downwind of ten cattle feedlots in Texas and states to the north, each containing between 20,000 and 50,000 cows.

The team placed portable air samplers 10-20 yards upwind and downwind of feedlots in the fall and winter months, when temperatures are mild and wind is moderate, and analyzed the particulate matter. Monenisin, an antibiotic growth promoter widely used on beef and dairy feedlots, turned up in 100 percent of samples, at much higher rates downwind (mean: 1,800 parts per billion) than upwind (below the level of measurement.) Now, monenisin isn’t used in human medicine, meaning that it doesn’t directly contribute to antibiotic resistance that affects us. But tetracycline antibiotics—used commonly to treat urinary tract infections and pink eye—showed up in 60 percent of the downwind samples and 30 percent of the upwind samples, again at much lower levels upwind.

To put these findings in perspective, the authors note they found antibiotics in the air outside of these feedlots at levels similar to those typically found within large enclosed hog operations—meaning that finding yourself 20 yards from a giant cattle lot is a lot like being inside a hog house.

They also found bacteria “common to fecal matter and gut flora” at significantly higher levels downwind than upwind, including several that can cause human infections, including including corynebacterium, Leptospira, Clostridia, Bacteroides, and Staphylococcus.

And they picked up gene sequences that confer resistance to tetracycline at rates ranging from 100 to more than 1,000 times higher downwind than upwind. And get this: Those tetracycline-resistant genes appeared at much higher rates than those typically found in the liquid manure lagoons that build up in beef feedlots—meaning that wind may be even more prolific than water at spreading antibiotic-resistant genes from the farm to the surrounding region.

So how is all this nasty stuff moving from the feedlot to the surrounding air? The authors offer a simple explanation: The ground in feedlots “consists primarily of urine and fecal material,” the study notes. In the morning, all of that … stuff is relatively stable, held more or less in place by moisture from humidity. But after hours of sunlight, the floor material “becomes dry and brittle, thus becoming source material for fugitive dust.”

So what does this all add up to? The study doesn’t comment on whether the particles the researchers found are at high enough levels to directly cause human harm. But that’s not the main concern—most of us don’t spend much time near massive concentrated cattle operations. (Feedlot workers are another story.) The larger issue is those antibiotic genes, traces of antibiotics, and fecal microbes that are being scattered far and wide. The authors note that of the nation’s 2,100 large-scale (1000 head or greater) cattle feedlots, more than three-quarters are in the region of area study, the southern Great Plains (a swath stretching from northern Texas through parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado)—the very region with the “highest frequency of dust storms in the United States.” The region’s semi-arid conditions—as well its its propensity for prolonged droughts—provides an ideal environment for the “wind scouring of dry soils,” and “aerial transport and deposition” of feedlot particles into “surrounding soil surfaces, water surfaces, vegetation, and other living organisms.”

And that’s under calm weather conditions. “Fronts and other major weather patterns frequently sweep through this region, and are often associated with exceedingly high wind velocities which themselves transport significant masses of particulates into the atmosphere and across the region and continent,” they add. And once in the environment, resistance genes can jump from bacteria that don’t pose a threat to humans to ones that do, the authors note.

The study is yet another reminder that the massive amounts of waste generated on factory farms don’t stay on factory farms.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Roadside Dust

Do we know what kind of harm our cars are doing to the environment? The University of Pennsylvania did a fascinating study of roadside dust.  Take a read.

Roadside Dust

Analyzing roadside dust to identify potential health concerns
by University of Pennsylvania


“Everyone knows that cars contribute to air pollution. And when most people consider the source, exhaust is usually what comes to mind.

However, new research led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Reto Gieré, working with collaborators across the world, is helping to illuminate another significant culprit when it comes to traffic-related air pollution: Tiny bits of tires, brake pads, and road materials that become suspended in the air when vehicles pass over.

“More and more I’ve noticed that we don’t know enough about what is on our roads,” says Gieré, professor and chair of Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts and Sciences. “If you have lots of traffic, cars, and trucks driving by, they re-suspend the dust on the roads into the atmosphere, and then it becomes breathable. To understand the potential health implications of these dust particles, it’s really important to understand what’s on the road.”

While regulatory efforts have helped make cars cleaner and more efficient, those restrictions do not address the pollution that arises from tire and brake wear. Increasing urban congestion stands to aggravate these as sources of pollution and possibly adverse health effects.

“About 4 million people die prematurely from air pollution each year,” says Gieré. “From unsafe water the number is 2 million. Yet we have a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal about water pollution but not one about the air.”

To shed light on the contents of traffic-related dust and the conditions that make it more likely to accumulate, Gieré has teamed with German colleagues from the Federal Highway Research Institute, the German Meteorological Service, and the University of Freiburg to sample and analyze the air along roadsides. In 2017, they published the findings of a year-long sampling effort along two highly frequented motorways in Germany, one subject to more stop-and-go traffic and another in a more rural area bordered by agricultural fields.

To passively collect the dust along the roadsides, they used customized cylindrical samplers with a transparent sticky foil at the bottom to trap particles that make their way in. The researchers checked the collection points and switched out the sticky “trap” weekly.

Using optical microscopy to analyze the collected airborne particles, the team found that the site with busier traffic patterns had 30 percent more particles overall, with a greater fraction derived from tire wear. Weather factored significantly into the patterns they observed; dry and warm conditions were associated with a greater build-up of particles.

“At higher temperatures we saw more tire abrasion, more pollution than at intermediate temperatures,” Gieré says. “This was exactly analogous to what two laboratory studies found.”

With higher temperatures and more dry spells predicted under climate change, Gieré notes that this problem of tire abrasion may only get worse, “which is significant,” he says, “because nearly 30 percent of the microplastics released globally to the oceans are from tires.”

In a more recent study, published last month in Aerosol and Air Quality Research, Gieré and colleagues used powerful scanning electron microscopy to more precisely identify the make-up of the particles collected from the two motorways studied in the 2017 report as well as a third collection site, at an urban highway with slower-moving traffic.

“The optical microscope gives us a first approximation,” Gieré says, “while the scanning electron microscope allows us to distinguish between tire abrasion, brake abrasion, carbon, or find out if there are minerals in there.”

Taking a further step, the team also ran samples through an analysis that provides information about the elements that compose each specimen, called energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.

This study focused on the “super coarse” particles collected, those greater than 10 micrometers in size. (For comparison, a human hair is roughly 75 micrometers in diameter.) While still tiny, these particles pose less of a health threat than those even smaller, which are more easily inhaled. Still, these larger particles can wind up in waterways and soil, affecting wildlife or possibly even agricultural crops.

Ninety percent of the dust particles collected from the three sites were traffic-related and the researchers again saw differences between the sites. The slower-moving traffic on the urban road generated fewer particles from brake wear but more from tires; they noted that the tire rubber became encrusted with minerals and other materials from the roads. The highway with more stop-and-go traffic generated more brake particles.

Tire and brake pad manufacturers do not disclose all the contents of their products, but it’s known that zinc, lead, antimony, silicates, cadmium, and asbestos are used by some. These are chemicals that can pose a health risk if they get into the environment or, if the tires are burned as they sometimes are by coal plants, the atmosphere.

“These coarse particles aren’t going to be transported very far, so pollution is going to be restricted to the vicinity of these roads, especially during congestion,” Gieré says. “But they do also collect on the road and then wash into rivers. Our team believes that’s a major pathway of how microplastics get into waterways.”

One way to reduce this avenue of pollution would be traffic-calming measures, such as coordinated traffic lights, that reduce the amount of starting and stopping that drivers must perform. Gieré and colleagues, including Ph.D. student Michael O’Shea, are also performing similar experiments on the streets of Philadelphia and comparing the pollution levels between different neighborhoods to see what is happening a little closer to home.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Rock Dust – Good or Bad?

Here are two opposing articles to read on the subject of adding rock dust to your garden / agricultural land.  Take a read – what do you think?  Rock dust – good or bad?


Topping Soil With Rock Dust Could Suck Billions of Tons of CO2 From the Air and Increase Crop Nutrients

By Andy Corbley -Jul 14, 2020

Good News Network

“Spreading the dust of basalt rock over fallow fields could drain billions of metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year, says a new study published in Nature.

According to a team of primarily English scientists, mitigation of the worst effects of human-caused climate change will require both cutting carbon emissions, and the gradual removal of already existing greenhouse gases.

Soils normally absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but when mixed with the dust of basalt, which is rich in calcium and magnesium and also very abundant (as a mining and mineral by-product) you get a 2-fold benefit—crop production that is more nutrient, and an accelerated absorption of CO2.

The mixing of dust and soil increases the alkalinity, dissolving CO2 into non-organic carbon forms such as hydrogen carbonate ions: HCO3. These carbon-sequestering ions are removed via rainwater, and transferred to the ocean through runoff and drainage systems where they will act as carbon-prisons for 100,000 years.

“The logistical infrastructure to apply basaltic rock dust to managed croplands already exists owing to the common need to apply crushed limestone to reverse soil acidification resulting from intensive cropping,” write the authors in their study. “Thus, rapid deployment at large scale appears to be feasible…and has important ancillary benefits including mitigation of ocean acidification.”

If this can also cut the acid level in the ocean, which puts coral at risk, the idea now has a 3-fold benefit—a win-win-win.

“CO2 drawdown strategies that can scale up and are compatible with existing land uses are urgently required to combat climate change, alongside deep emissions cuts,” said Prof David Beerling, of the University of Sheffield, a lead author of the study. “ERW [dust spreading] is a straightforward, practical approach.”

Dust is even better than trees
Their modeling and analysis found that the emissions of serious CO2 producers Germany and Japan could be offset by treating half the world’s cropland with basalt dust, which would in theory be cheaper than other CO2 extraction strategies, with costs varying on local labor rates.

Tree-planting is mentioned in the study as a great way to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, but while mass-planting is often cheaper, the benefits are not as strong. Further they rely on the trees surviving a certain number of years for the benefits to fully take hold which is never a certainty.

Speaking with the Guardian, Prof. Breeling said of the basalt dust mixing: “If you could demonstrate to farmers in China and India, for example, that they are going to get crop yield increases and get paid $100 a ton for removing CO2, then it becomes really attractive.”

“Mining generates a continuous, but often discarded, finely powdered silicate by-product that is utilizable for dust mixing,” reads the study. They point out that it would require little to utilize existing silicate powders because of already existing mining infrastructure, potentially eliminating the CO2 generation from constructing tipper trucks, roads, or additional mines to produce the dust. Finally the authors mention that nations only need make an inventory of how much silicate byproduct they possess.

These numbers could then be plugged into their models and a more accurate and real-world assessment could be made on how far basalt dust mixing could go to reducing the effects of climate change.

And because it’s good for cropland, there are plenty of private sector incentives as well.”

Rock dust

(The article below has not been printed in full here – please follow the link to read the complete article)

Rock Dust – Can It Remineralize the Earth?

By: Robert Pavlis

Garden Myths

“Rock dust is a very popular soil additive especially with organic and permaculture groups. It is full of nutrients and adding it to soil will replenish all of the nutrients that agriculture has taken out of our soil. This process of adding nutrients back to soil is known as mineralization.

This seems to make a lot of sense. We remove food from the land, and the food contains lots of minerals. At some point we need to put them back into the soil or else we will have soil that won’t grow anything. This seems logical but is it really true? Is our soil losing fertility? If it is deficient, can rock dust be used to solve the problem? How effective is rock dust and which type of rock works the best? Time to crush some myths about rock dust.

To be effective the rock needs to be ground into a very fine powder. That way it is more easily used by microorganisms and decomposed by environmental elements.

Two common forms of rock, namely limestone and phosphate rock have been used for a long time to amend soil. Although these products are correctly called rock dust, they are usually not included when gardeners talk about rock dust, and I will exclude them from this post.

Is Rock Dust a Fertilizer?
Some commercial products call themselves a fertilizer and I even found one that was labeled like a fertilizer showing an NPK of 0-0-1, but by most legal definitions rock dust does not contain enough NPK to qualify as a fertilizer.

Claims Made for Rock Dust
Rock dust is claimed to add all kinds of minerals back to soil. These are the nutrients that plants need to grow. Because of this, rock dust products make all kinds of claims for growing bigger plants, producing higher yields, increasing disease resistance, etc. These are all valid claims if the soil is deficient of one or more nutrients and rock dust adds the missing nutrient.

There are two clear questions we must answer to validate these claims and I’ll do that in the rest of this post.

Does rock dust add plant available nutrients to soil?

Is soil deficient of nutrients?

If the answer to either question is no, rock dust will not help plants grow.

Mineral Content of Rock Dust
Rock dust does contain a lot of minerals. I have seen claims ranging from 60 up to 90 different minerals. Azomite is a common product and their analysis list of 74 minerals can be seen here.

I don’t dispute the claims, but there is no evidence that plants need all of these minerals. They use about 20 minerals – that’s it. The other 40 to 70 are not needed by plants.

Rate of Decomposition of Rock Dust
Earlier in this post, I posed the question, does rock dust add nutrients to soil. There is no doubt that adding rock dust adds the minerals, but I can also do that by laying a big bolder on top of the garden. The bolder will not help plants grow but it does add minerals to the garden. Unless the minerals in the rock decompose to release the nutrients in a form plants can use, there is little point in adding the rock dust.

For this reason I think that one of the most important questions we need to ask is, how quickly does rock dust decompose?

Some of my early reading on the matter indicated time frames of a hundred years. I have searched on many web sites selling rock dust and none have any claims or data to show decomposition happens even after 100 years or more. No one in the industry wants to put a number on this important property.

The best information I have is a casual comment that it is about 100 years. At that rate the product is essentially useless.

Are Soils Nutrient Deficient?
This is also an important question to ask. Do we have a problem that needs to be fixed?

I had a closer look at this question in a previous post called Is Soil Fertility Decreasing? My conclusion was that our soils are not losing fertility. They are not nutrient deficient. Therefore, rock dust, assuming it actually works, is a product that tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

What Does Research Say?
Some papers report some improvements in plant growth with some soils but many show no change. There is limited field work done – it is almost all lab work. I did not find a single paper that measured the chemical characteristics of soil before and after adding rock dust to the field – maybe you can find one for me.

There is some evidence that rock dust may provide an important source of potassium in regions like Africa that tend to have soils which leach nutrients quickly and where fertilizer costs are very high.

Rock dust is used extensively in Brazil and now Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, has come out and said, “there is not enough scientific information to recommend silicate agrominerals as a source of nutrients, especially potassium, or soil conditioners for agriculture.”

The science does not support the use of rock dust for most agricultural areas and even the suppliers of rock dust suggest it has no value in alkaline soil.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Airborne Dust: A Hazard to Human Health

I trust you will enjoy today’s article.  Have a great day!

Airborne Dust: A Hazard to Human Health

Airborne Dust: A Hazard to Human Health, Environment and Society
Author: By Enric Terradellas, Slobodan Nickovic and Xiao-Ye Zhang


“Over the last decade, the scientific community has come to realize the important impacts of airborne dust on climate, human health, the environment and various socio-economic sectors. WMO and its Members, having started implementation of monitoring, forecasting and early warning systems for airborne dust in 2004, are at the vanguard on evaluating these impacts and developing products to guide preparedness, adaptation and mitigation policies.

This article will first provide an overview of the dust cycle and discuss its interaction with weather, the climate system, and terrestrial and marine ecosystems, before looking at its impacts on health and diverse economic sectors. It will then highlight the international network coordinated by WMO and its ambitious plan for providing policy-oriented products. The intent is to raise awareness in National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) on the extent of the adverse impacts of airborne dust and to inform readers of WMO efforts to understand these better. The article highlights the WMO initiative to provide operational services that can facilitate dust forecasting and early warning in order to invite other interested organisations to actively participate in this important work.

The Dust Cycle
Dust storms are common meteorological hazard in arid and semi-arid regions. They are usually caused by thunderstorms, or strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones, that increase wind speed over a wide area.

These strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere, transporting them hundreds to thousands of kilometres away.

Gravity keeps dust pinned down on the Earth surface. The heavier a dust particle – due to size, density or the presence of water in the soil – the stronger the gravitational force holding it down. A dust storm can only occur when the wind force exceeds the threshold value for the loose particles to be lifted off the ground. Vegetation serves as a cover, protecting the Earth surface from this wind (Aeolian) erosion. Thus, drought contributes to the emergence of dust storms, as do poor farming and grazing practices or inadequate water management, by exposing the dust and sand to the wind.

Some 40% of aerosols in the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) are dust particles from wind erosion. The main sources of these mineral dusts are the arid regions of Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and China. Comparatively, Australia, America and South Africa make minor, but still important, contributions. Global estimates of dust emissions, mainly derived from simulation models, vary between one and three Gigatons per year.

Once released from the surface, dust particles are raised to higher levels of the troposphere by turbulent mixing and convective updrafts. They are then transported by winds for lengths of time, depending on their size and meteorological conditions. Gravitation remains the major force pulling dust particles back down to the surface. Together with impaction and turbulent diffusion, it contributes to what is called dry deposition. As larger particles sediment more quickly than smaller ones, there is a shift toward smaller particle sizes during transport. Dust is also washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation – wet deposition. The average lifetime of dust particles in the atmosphere ranges from a few hours for particles with a diameter larger than 10 μm, to more than 10 days for the sub-micrometric ones.

Interaction with weather and climate
Aerosols, particularly mineral dusts, impact weather as well as global and regional climate.4 Dust particles, especially if coated by pollution, act as condensation nuclei for warm cloud formation and as efficient ice nuclei agents for cold cloud generation. The ability of dust particles to serve as such depends on their size, shape and composition, which in turn depend on the nature of parent soils, emissions and transport processes. Modification of the microphysical composition of clouds changes their ability to absorb solar radiation, which indirectly affects the energy reaching the Earth’s surface.5 Dust particles also influence the growth of cloud droplets and ice crystals, thus affecting the amount and location of precipitation.

Airborne dust functions in a manner similar to the greenhouse effect: it absorbs and scatters solar radiation entering Earth’s atmosphere, reducing the amount reaching the surface, and absorbs long-wave radiation bouncing back up from the surface, re-emitting it in all directions. Again, the ability of dust particles to absorb solar radiation depends on their size, shape and mineralogical and chemical composition. The vertical distribution of dust in the air (vertical profile) and the characteristics of the underlying surface are also required to quantify this impact.

Impacts on human health
Airborne dust presents serious risks for human health. Dust particle size is a key determinant of potential hazard to human health. Particles larger than 10 μm are not breathable, thus can only damage external organs – mostly causing skin and eye irritations, conjunctivitis and enhanced susceptibility to ocular infection. Inhalable particles, those smaller than 10 μm, often get trapped in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract, thus can be associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis. However, finer particles may penetrate the lower respiratory tract and enter the bloodstream, where they can affect all internal organs and be responsible for cardiovascular disorders. A global model assessment in 2014 estimated that exposure to dust particles caused about 400 000 premature deaths by cardiopulmonary disease in the over 30 population.6

Some infectious diseases can be transmitted by dust. Meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the thin tissue layer that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can result in brain damage and, if untreated, death in 50% of cases.7 Outbreaks occur worldwide, yet the highest incidence is found in the “meningitis belt”, a part of sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated population of 300 million. These outbreaks have a strong seasonal pattern – many studies have linked environmental conditions, such as low humidity and dusty conditions, to the time and place of infections.8 Researchers believe that the inhalation of dust particles in hot dry weather may damage nose and throat mucosa creating favourable conditions for bacterial infection.9 Moreover, iron oxides embedded in dust particles may enhance the risk of infection.10

Dust also plays a role in the transmission of valley fever – a potentially deadly disease – in the Southwest of the United States and in the Northern Mexico by acting as a transporter of Coccidioides fungi spores.

Impacts on the environment and society
Surface dust deposits are a source of micro-nutrients for both continental and maritime ecosystems. Saharan dust is thought to fertilize the Amazon rainforest, and dust transports of iron and phosphorus are know to benefit marine biomass production in parts of the oceans suffering from the shortage of such elements.11 But dust also has many negative impacts on agriculture, including reducing crop yields by burying seedlings, causing loss of plant tissue, reducing photosynthetic activity and increasing soil erosion.

Indirect dust deposit impacts include filling irrigation canals, covering transportation routes and affecting river and stream water quality. Reductions in visibility due to airborne dust also have an impact on air and land transport. Poor visibility conditions are a danger during aircraft landing and taking off – landings may be diverted and departures delayed. Dust can also scour aircraft surfaces and damage engines.

Dust can impact on the output of solar power plants, especially those that rely on direct solar radiation. Dust deposits on solar panels are a main concern of plants operators. Keeping the solar collectors dust-free to prevent particles from blocking incoming radiation requires time and labour.”


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