American Univesity of Beirut

Mohamad G. Abiad reassures the public that fires near silos at Port of Beirut pose no alarming risk of pollution

In an interview with Ici Beyrouth, Dr. Mohamad G. Abiad, Director of LEAF and advisor to the Minister of the Environment, discussed the cause of the smoke emerging from the grains of corn and wheat piled at the foot of the silos at Beirut Port. Following investigations, Dr. Abiad attributed the cause of the fire to anaerobic digestion, also called fermentation, triggered by the hermetically sealed medium resulting from the combination of high humidity with high starch content of the corn kernels. Fermentation releases heat causing the grains to ignite. Dr. Abiad assured, “there are no chemicals stored near the port as the army scanned and cleaned all traces of chemical and other acids around the area surrounding the silos".

In another interview with Al Akhbar on the 15th of July, Dr. Abiad pointed out the misconception among the public that this fire can be put out using water. On the contrary, Dr. Abiad explains that using water would only increase the humidity level, which in turn would accelerate the fermentation process releasing more heat. The best solution would be to leave it to burn since the combustion is complete, i.e., only carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor are being released.

The public was concerned that the smoke might have harmful effects; however, Dr. Abiad explained that since the combustion is complete, there is no risk of air pollution. Dr. Abiad stressed that based on a study done by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with AUB on the composition of wheat and corn near the silos, “there is no danger in burning these grains."

Full articles links: Ici Beyrouth | Al Akhbar | Al Monitor

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