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United States Patent Application 20170001796
Kind Code A1
Nelson; Thomas M. January 5, 2017

BULK BAG APPARATUS AND UNIQUE BULK SACK SOLUTION FOR STORAGE AND TRANSPORT OF TORREFIED MATERIALS

Abstract

A container receives and holds product. The container includes a multilayered composite film combination forming a bag defining a product fill opening. The multilayered composite film combination includes first and second polymer film inner and outer layers each having vacuum holding properties, and a third polymer film disposed between the first and second polymer films. The third polymer film has oxygen barrier properties. Product is packed into the container by coupling a fill spout of the container with a fill tube of a product filling apparatus, and oxygen is drawn from an inner cavity of the container. Product is flowed through the fill spout of the container, and nitrogen is added into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container. The fill spout of the container is sealed while a negative pressure is drawn within the inner cavity thereby immobilizing the product within the container.


Inventors: Nelson; Thomas M.; (Chagrin Falls, OH)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Torresak, LLC

Chagrin Falls

OH

US
Family ID: 1000002192187
Appl. No.: 15/200992
Filed: July 1, 2016


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62187895Jul 2, 2015

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B65D 88/1618 20130101; B65D 88/1668 20130101; B65D 88/1681 20130101; B65B 39/007 20130101; B65D 88/74 20130101; B65B 1/04 20130101; B65B 7/02 20130101; B65D 88/22 20130101
International Class: B65D 88/16 20060101 B65D088/16; B65B 39/00 20060101 B65B039/00; B65B 1/04 20060101 B65B001/04; B65B 7/02 20060101 B65B007/02; B65D 88/22 20060101 B65D088/22; B65D 88/74 20060101 B65D088/74

Claims



1. A container (10) for receiving and holding associated filled product (2), the container (10) comprising: a multilayered composite film combination (20) forming a bag (22) defining a product fill opening (30), the multilayered composite film combination (20) comprising: a first polymer film (22) having vacuum holding properties, the first polymer film acting as an inner layer (23) of the container; a second polymer film (24) having vacuum holding properties, the second polymer film acting as an outer layer (25) of the container; and a third polymer film (26) disposed between the first (22) and second (24) polymer films, the third polymer film (26) having oxygen barrier properties.

2. The container (10) according to claim 1 wherein: the first polymer film (22) comprises a first low density polyethylene (LDPE) film (22'); the second polymer film (24) comprises a second LDPE film (24'); and the third polymer film (26) comprises an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) film (26').

3. The container (10) according to claim 2, wherein: the first and second LDPE films (22', 24') provide an airtight vacuum seal; and the EVA film (26') is impervious to a flow of oxygen therethrough.

4. The container (10) according to claim 3, wherein the EVA film is impervious to a flow of nitrogen therethrough.

5. The container (10) according to claim 2, wherein the multilayered composite film combination (20) is a co-extrusion of the LDPE and EVA films.

6. The container (10) according to claim 2, wherein the LDPE and EVA films are in intimate contact with each other.

7. The container (10) according to claim 2, wherein the LDPE and EVA films are fused together as a single unitary film structure.

8. The container (10) according to claim 2, further comprising: a first adhesive (ADH) film (27) disposed between the first LDPE film (22') and the EVA (26') film, the first ADH film (27) having bonding properties for connecting the first LDPE film with the EVA film; and a second ADH film (28) disposed between the second LDPE film (24') and the EVA film (26'), the second ADH film (28) having the bonding properties for connecting the second LDPE film with the EVA film.

9. The container (10) according to claim 2, further comprising: a fill spout (32) operatively coupled with the bag at the opening, the fill spout (32) having a generally cylindrical conformation defining a first opening (33) in fluid tight connection with the product fill opening (30) of the bag (22), and a second opening (34) configured to receive the associated filled product (2) into the bag through the fill spout (32) and the product fill opening (30); and a flexible bladder (40) member carried on the fill spout adjacent to the second opening, the bladder member being configured to be selectively inflatable for selectively coupling the fill spout (32) with an associated fill tube (3) communicating the associated product (2), the bladder member (40) being operative to couple the fill spout (32) with the associated fill tube (3) when the bladder (40) is in an inflated condition and to decouple and release the fill spout (32) from the associated fill tube (3) when the bladder member (40) is in a deflated condition.

10. A composite bulk storage and transport apparatus (1) comprising: a flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) device (110); and an in-liner container (10) for receiving and holding associated filled product (2), the in-liner container (10) being operatively coupled with the FIBC device (110) and comprising: a multilayered composite film combination (20) forming a bag (22) defining a product fill opening (30), the multilayered composite film combination (20) comprising: a first polymer film (22) having vacuum holding properties, the first polymer film acting as an inner layer (23) of the in-liner container; a second polymer film (24) having vacuum holding properties, the second polymer film acting as an outer layer (25) of the in-liner container; and a third polymer film (26) disposed between the first (22) and second (24) polymer films, the third polymer film (26) having oxygen barrier properties.

11. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 10 wherein: the first polymer film (22) of the in-line container comprises a first low density polyethylene (LDPE) film (22'); the second polymer film (24) of the in-line container (10) comprises a second LDPE film (24'); and the third polymer film (26) of the in-line container (10) comprises an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) film (26').

12. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, wherein: the first and second LDPE films (22', 24') of the in-line container (10) provide an airtight vacuum seal; and the EVA film of the in-line container (10) is impervious to a flow of oxygen therethrough.

13. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 12, wherein the EVA film of the in-line container (10) is impervious to a flow of nitrogen therethrough.

14. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, wherein the multilayered composite film combination (20) is a co-extrusion of the LDPE and EVA films.

15. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, wherein the LDPE and EVA films are in intimate contact with each other.

16. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, wherein the LDPE and EVA films are fused together as a single unitary film structure.

17. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, wherein the multilayered composite film combination (20) further comprises: a first adhesive (ADH) film (27) disposed between the first LDPE film and the EVA film, the first ADH film (27) having bonding properties; and a second ADH film (28) disposed between the second LDPE film and the EVA film, the second ADH film (28) having the bonding properties.

18. The composite apparatus (1) according to claim 11, further comprising: a fill spout (32) operatively coupled with the bag at the opening, the fill spout (32) having a generally cylindrical conformation defining a first opening (33) in fluid tight connection with the product fill opening (30) of the bag (22), and a second opening (34) configured to receive the associated filled product (2) into the bag through the fill spout (32) and the product fill opening (30); and a flexible bladder member (40) carried on the fill spout adjacent to the second opening, the bladder member being configured to be selectively inflatable for selectively coupling the fill spout (32) with an associated fill tube (3) communicating the associated product (2), the bladder member (40) being operative to couple the fill spout (32) with the associated fill tube (3) when the bladder (40) is in an inflated condition and to decouple and release the fill spout (32) from the associated fill tube (3) when the bladder member (40) is in a deflated condition.

19. A method (150) of packing a container (10) with an associated product (2), the method (150) comprising: coupling (152) a fill spout of the container with a fill tube of an associated filling apparatus; flowing (153) the associated product into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container; drawing (154) oxygen from an inner cavity of the container; adding nitrogen (155) into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container; drawing a negative pressure (156) within the inner cavity relative to areas outside of the container; and sealing (157) the fill spout of the container.

20. The method (150) according to claim 19 wherein the drawing the negative pressure comprises immobilizing the associated product within the inner cavity by inward pressure of a wall of the container on the associated product.

21. The method (150) according to claim 20 wherein the sealing comprises sealing the fill spout of the container while the inner chamber is under a negative pressure relative to the areas outside of the container.

22. The method (150) according to claim 19 wherein the coupling the fill spout of the container with the fill tube of the associated filling apparatus comprises inflating a flexible bladder disposed on the fill spout of the container.
Description



CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent application Ser. No. 62/187,895, filed on Jul. 2, 2015, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The embodiments herein relate generally to containers and to methods of filling containers for storage and transportation of solid filled products in powder, granule or chip form, in the form of pieces or in any form convenient for filling, storage and shipping, and more specifically to containers and to methods of filling containers for storage and transportation of solid filled torrefied materials in any form as may be necessary or desired for convenient and efficient filling, shipping and storage. The example embodiments herein will be described in connection with a big bulk bag such as for example a flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC). However, it is to be appreciated that the embodiments are not limited to these applications, but also find use in many other applications including for example bulk packaging for perishable dry foods, spices, chemicals and other materials in solid form.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Torrefied or pyrolized biomass is the product of a new and emerging market. Torrefied biomass has many uses in the energy, agricultural, chemical and construction industries. This new carbonized material has, in certain conditions, a calorific energy value similar to coal. Indeed, one of the principal applications for torrefied biomass is "biocoal," which is a more environmentally friendly fuel for generating electricity.

[0004] When biomass is torrefied (heated at 500 C to 600 C in the absence of oxygen), volatile elements of the biomass are vaporized. As the material cools, some of these vaporized volatiles condense back onto the surface of the char. This new carbonized material is highly flammable and explosive. Under certain conditions, these condensed volatiles can self-ignite. In addition, grinding the torrefied biomass during processing thereof can act as an accelerant to this pyrophoric reaction. It is also possible that static electric discharge (sparking) could function as an igniter. It is further possible that friction caused by vibration of the char during processing, handling or transport could function as an igniter.

[0005] Given the above, therefore, transporting and storing of torrefied materials such as biomass or other fuels presents risks including for example, possible risk of fire and/or explosions.

[0006] It became clear by 2013 that the nascent torrefaction industry needs to develop new safety protocols, products and procedures to help reduce the risk of fire and explosion associated with the handling, storage and transportation of torrefied biomass.

[0007] A flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) or bulk bag, or big bag, is an industrial container made of flexible fabric that is designed for storing and transporting dry, flowable products, such as sand, fertilizer, and granules of plastic. FIBC bulk bags are available in various standardized configurations including Types A-D FIBC bulk bags and are compatible for use with virtually any free-flowing granule, powder, pellet or flake.

[0008] The current package of choice for the torrefaction industry is merely a regular Type A bulk sack, which is made from plain woven polypropylene or polyethylene fibers. There are no safety features inherent to the Type B bulk sack, as the fibers present no significant barrier to O.sub.2 or H.sub.2O transfer, and there is no provision for static discharge or friction. Type C bulk sacks are conductive as they are in general constructed from electrically conductive fabric, designed to control electrostatic charges by grounding using integral conductive threads or tape, but they lack impermeable barrier properties to prevent the transfer of gasses, moisture and/or other vapors. Lastly, industry standard Type D FIBC bulk bags have anti-static or static dissipative properties without the requirement of grounding, but they are also deficient in providing impermeable barrier properties to prevent the transfer of gasses, moisture and/or other vapors

[0009] It is therefore desirable to provide a container for the safe bulk storage and transport of hazardous dry flowable products such as torrefied materials without these limitations and to a method for filling such container. In particular, a container that provides a modified atmosphere environment to help reduce the risk of fire and explosion inherent to the transport and storage of torrefied biomass is desirable. A bulk bag container that provides a significant barrier to O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer is desirable. Further, a bulk bag container that provides for static discharge is desirable. Yet still further, a bulk bag container that substantially controls the movement of the torrefied materials within the bulk bag is desirable. It is further desirable to provide systems and methods for easily, efficiently, and safely filling such containers with torrefied or other hazardous materials.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

[0010] Example embodiments herein relate to a bulk bag apparatus for safe storage and transport of torrefied materials, and to a method for filling the bulk bag apparatus.

[0011] In accordance with an example embodiment herein, a bulk container presents a unique and innovative use of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) design and construction to help reduce the risk of fire and explosion inherent to the transport and storage of torrefied biomass.

[0012] In accordance with an example embodiment herein, a container is provided for receiving and holding associated filled product. In an exampler embodiment, the container includes a multilayered composite film combination forming a bag defining a product fill opening. The multilayered composite film combination includes an inner layer first polymer film having vacuum holding properties, an outer layer second polymer film having vacuum holding properties, and a third polymer film disposed between the first and second polymer films, wherein the third polymer film has oxygen barrier properties. In an embodiment the first polymer film is a first low density polyethylene (LDPE) film, the second polymer film is a second LDPE film, and the third polymer film is an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) film. The first and second LDPE films provide an airtight vacuum seal. The EVA film is impervious to flows of oxygen and nitrogen therethrough.

[0013] In accordance with a further example embodiment, a composite bulk storage and transport apparatus includes a flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) container and an in-liner container for receiving and holding associated filled product. The in-liner container is operatively coupled with the FIBC container and includes a multilayered composite film combination forming a bag defining a product fill opening. The multilayered composite film combination includes a first polymer film having vacuum holding properties, the first polymer film acting as an inner layer of the in-liner container; a second polymer film having vacuum holding properties, the second polymer film acting as an outer layer of the in-liner container; and a third polymer film disposed between the first and second polymer films, the third polymer film having oxygen barrier properties.

[0014] In accordance with yet a further example embodiment, A method of packing a container with an associated product is provided. In the method, a fill spout of the container is coupled with a fill tube of an associated filling apparatus and oxygen is drawn from an inner cavity of the container. The associated product is flowed into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container and nitrogen is added into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container. A negative pressure is drawn within the inner cavity relative to areas outside of the container, and the fill spout of the container is sealed. In the example embodiment, the sealing includes sealing the fill spout of the container while the inner chamber is under a negative pressure relative to the areas outside of the container. The drawing of the negative pressure and the sealing while under the negative pressure advantageously results in an immobilization of the associated product within the inner cavity by inward pressure of a wall of the container on the associated product. In an embodiment the coupling of the fill spout of the container with the fill tube of the associated filling apparatus includes inflating a flexible bladder disposed on the fill spout of the container.

[0015] In accordance with a further example embodiment herein, a bulk bag apparatus as shown and described herein provides a significant barrier to O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer; provides for static discharge; and substantially controls the movement of the torrefied materials within the bulk bag apparatus thereby eliminating of substantially abating or friction in and between the torrefied materials within the bulk bag apparatus.

[0016] Example embodiments of the subject bulk bag apparatus for safe storage and transport of torrefied materials provide a unique innovative vacuum packaging with N.sub.2 purge to prevent fire of torrefied biomass. This is an emerging industry with new and unique safety concerns, which require novel solutions such as are provided by the embodiments of the subject bulk bag apparatus.

[0017] Heretofore, commercial bulk sacks failed to use and realize the benefits of vacuum sealing. Also heretofore, commercial bulk sacks failed to use and realize the benefits of an N.sub.2 purge during the bag filling operation. Yet still further heretofore, commercial bulk sacks failed to use and realize the benefits of vacuum sealing with an N.sub.2 purge. Embodiments of the container and of the container filling method herein use one or more of the vacuum sealing, the N.sub.2 purge during the bag filling operation, and/or the combination of the vacuum sealing with the N.sub.2 purge

[0018] Additional advantages and features of the embodiments herein will become apparent from the following description and appended claims, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] The foregoing and other features of the embodiments herein will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which the present surround view systems, calibration systems, and calibration methods relate, upon reading the following description with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0020] FIG. 1 is a perspective schematic view of a composite bulk storage and transport apparatus in accordance with an example embodiment.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a diagrammatical view of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

[0022] FIG. 3 is a diagrammatical view showing an in-liner container portion removed from the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus shown in FIG. 2.

[0023] FIG. 3A is a cross-sectional view of the in-liner portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus in accordance with a first embodiment taken through line A-A of FIG. 3.

[0024] FIG. 3B is a cross-sectional view of the in-liner portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus in accordance with a second embodiment taken through line A-A of FIG. 3.

[0025] FIG. 4 is a diagrammatical view showing a flexible intermediate bulk container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus of FIG. 2 shown in partial phantom.

[0026] FIG. 5 is a diagrammatical view showing the in-liner container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus filled with atmosphere including oxygen prior to a filling method of an embodiment.

[0027] FIG. 6 is a diagrammatical view showing the atmosphere including the oxygen being removed from the in-liner container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus during the filling method of an embodiment.

[0028] FIG. 7 is a diagrammatical view showing product and nitrogen being added into the in-liner container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus during the filling method of an embodiment.

[0029] FIG. 8 is a diagrammatical view showing nitrogen and the product immobilized within the in-liner container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus following the filling method of an embodiment.

[0030] FIG. 9 is an assembly drawing showing the flexible intermediate bulk container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus in accordance with an embodiment.

[0031] FIG. 10 is an assembly drawing showing the in-liner container portion of the composite bulk storage and transport apparatus in accordance with an embodiment.

[0032] FIG. 11 is a flow chart showing a method of packing a container with an associated product in accordance with an embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

[0033] With reference now to the drawing Figures, wherein the showings are for purposes of describing the embodiments only and not for purposes of limiting same, example embodiments herein relate to a container 10 for receiving and holding associated filled product, a composite bulk storage and transport apparatus 100 including a flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) device 110 and the container 10 operable as an in-liner container for receiving and holding associated filled product, and to a method 150 of packing a container including a sealed 3/16'' to 1/4'' melt seal 90 at a discharge spout with an associated product. It is to be appreciated that the embodiments herein are applicable to many different container schemes and to many different container shapes and/or configurations having various sizes, and other characteristics as may be necessary or desired.

[0034] As representative of the embodiments and with reference in particular first to FIG. 1, a composite bulk storage and transport apparatus 100 in accordance with an example embodiment is shown in a perspective schematic view. The composite bulk storage and transport apparatus 100 includes a FIBC device 110 and an in-liner container 10 in accordance with the embodiments to be described in detail below.

[0035] To reduce and substantially eliminate the risk of fire and/or explosion, the embodiments of the bulk bag herein have been uniquely engineered to provide a Modified Atmosphere Package (MAP). In the embodiments herein, the atmospheric conditions inside of the package are deliberately modified by special package and process design to produce a specific environment beneficial to reducing the chance of fire in the contents of the package.

[0036] In this regard, the embodiments of the subject bulk bag apparatus in accordance with the present application provide many benefits. These include, without limitation, at least the benefits of the prevention of sparks during use of the bulk bag apparatus, an inert atmosphere inside the package air tight barrier to keep oxygen out through a removal of oxygen from the bag during the product filling process in combination with a nitrogen flush, and the prevention of ignition by friction (FIGS. 7 and 8) renders the atmosphere inside the package inert owing to a technique of vacuum sealing immobilization through vacuum compression, which holds the product within the bag in a tight pack.

[0037] In an embodiment, the subject composite bulk storage and transport apparatus 100 apparatus includes a FIBC device 110 and a container 10. In its preferred form, the FIBC device is a Type "B" dissipative shell shown in FIGS. 2 and 9, and the container 10 is preferably an integral proprietary film liner shown in FIGS. 3 and 11 that prevents sparking and potential ignition of its contents. The integral film liner 10 is shown inserted and sewn into the shell of the FIBC device 110 in FIG. 4. Any type of outer shell device may be used, but Type "B" dissipative shells manufactured by Conitex/SONOCO of Charlotte, N.C. made from woven polypropylene fibers with a static dissipative additive to help prevent static sparking are particularly useful and advantageous.

[0038] The proprietary film liner 10 shown in FIGS. 3 and 10 also creates an air tight barrier to keep oxygen out as shown in FIG. 8. No oxygen results in less chance of fire or explosion. In accordance with the of example embodiment, the container comprises a multilayered composite film combination forming a bag defining a product fill opening. The multilayered composite film combination comprises a first polymer film having vacuum holding properties, a second polymer film having vacuum holding properties, and a third polymer film disposed between the first and second polymer films. The first polymer film acts as an inner layer of the container, and the second polymer film acts as an outer layer of the container. Preferably, the third polymer film is impervious to a flow of selected gasses such as for example oxygen and/or nitrogen.

[0039] As best shown in the cross-sectional view of FIG. 3A, the film liner in accordance with a first embodiment is 3 mil ldpe/eva/ldpe with a static dissipative additive added, to help prevent static sparking, and with two layers of ldpe instead of a single layer to provide a thicker, stronger, airtight vacuum seal. The provision of two separate layers of low melt temperature ldpe is unique to this bulk package design. Normal industry practice uses a single layer of ldpe or other low melt temperature sealing film; however, the need for absolutely air tight seals in the subject bulk sack necessitates the provision of twice the sealing material as standard industry practice. Also, standard industry seals on a bulk package liner are 1/4'' wide. The subject bulk package utilizes 3/8'' seals, to provide more strength and better vapor barrier properties to the package. The specification and use herein of the food grade EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) barrier film layer resulted from extensive testing and produces a layer with outstanding barrier values to both O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer. This specific film liner structure, comprised of a double sealing layer of ldpe, a static dissipative additive, and the unusual provision of a superior EVA film vapor barrier, combined with the Type B static dissipative shell, is unique to bulk package construction at the current time.

[0040] Specifically in the example embodiment, the first and second polymer films comprise low density polyethylene (LDPE) films, and the third polymer film comprises an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) film. The first and second LDPE films provide an airtight vacuum seal, and the EVA film is impervious to a flow of oxygen therethrough. The EVA film is impervious to a flow of nitrogen therethrough.

[0041] The ldpe/eva/ldpe film liner is preferably a tri-lamination formed by a method of direct co-extrusion, a process in which hot melted layers of different polymer films are extruded together to form a single unit film structure with superior adhesion properties between the layers, to prevent de-lamination. As shown in FIG. 3A the layers are in intimate contact with each other. The multilayered composite film combination is a co-extrusion of the LDPE and EVA films arranged as illustrated. The LDPE and EVA films are in intimate contact with each other, and are preferably fused together as a single unitary film structure using for example the co-extrusion process.

[0042] The specification of the food grade EVA barrier film layer resulted from extensive testing and produces a layer with outstanding barrier values to both O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer. The overall film structure of the subject bag is preferably airtight, but at the same time, the subject bulk sack design is preferably able to withstand the forces inherent to a 1,500 lb. bulk sack. This is a unique requirement for a MAP package at the present time. Most flexible MAP packages are designed for the food industry and are, therefore, tiny, wherein much smaller packages, from 1 oz. to 1 lb. are common. The strength of the typical MAP film structure can therefore be much less. This specific film liner structure, combined with the Type B static dissipative shell, is unique to bulk package construction of the embodiments herein.

[0043] An alternate embodiment multilayered composite film combination is shown in FIG. 3B. The composite film structure is formed by adhesively laminating the three layers of polymer films (LDPE and EVA) into a composite structure, with a layer of adhesive (ADH) between each layer to hold the laminate together. The multilayered composite film combination comprises a first polymer film having vacuum holding properties, a second polymer film having vacuum holding properties, and a third polymer film disposed between the first and second polymer films. The first polymer film acts as an inner layer of the container, and the second polymer film acts as an outer layer of the container. Preferably, the third polymer film is impervious to a flow of selected gasses such as for example oxygen and/or nitrogen. As best shown in the cross-sectional view of FIG. 3B, the film liner is 3 mil ldpe/adh/eva/adh/ldpe with a static dissipative additive added, to help prevent static sparking, and with two layers of ldpe instead of a single layer to provide a thicker, stronger, airtight vacuum seal. The provision of two separate layers of low melt temperature ldpe is unique to this bulk package design. Normal industry practice uses a single layer of ldpe or other low melt temperature sealing film; however, the need for absolutely air tight seals in the subject bulk sack necessitates the provision of twice the sealing material as standard industry practice. Also, standard industry seals on a bulk package liner are 1/4'' wide. The subject bulk package utilizes 3/8'' seals, to provide more strength and better vapor barrier properties to the package. The specification and use herein of the food grade EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) barrier film layer resulted from extensive testing and produces a layer with outstanding barrier values to both O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer. This specific film liner structure, comprised of a double sealing layer of ldpe, a static dissipative additive, and the unusual provision of a superior EVA film vapor barrier, combined with the Type B static dissipative shell, is unique to bulk package construction at the current time.

[0044] Specifically in the example embodiment, the first and second polymer films comprise low density polyethylene (LDPE) films, and the third polymer film comprises an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) film. The first and second LDPE films provide an airtight vacuum seal, and the EVA film is impervious to a flow of oxygen therethrough. The EVA film is impervious to a flow of nitrogen therethrough. The ADH layers bind the LDPE layers with the EVA layer.

[0045] The specification of the food grade EVA barrier film layer resulted from extensive testing and produces a layer with outstanding barrier values to both O.sub.2 and H.sub.2O transfer. The overall film structure of the subject bag is preferably airtight, but at the same time, the subject bulk sack design is preferably able to withstand the forces inherent to a 1,500 lb. bulk sack. This is a unique requirement for a MAP package at the present time. Most flexible MAP packages are designed for the food industry and are, therefore, tiny, wherein much smaller packages, from 1 oz. to 1 lb. are common. The strength of the typical MAP film structure can therefore be much less. This specific film liner structure, combined with the Type B static dissipative shell, is unique to bulk package construction of the embodiments herein.

[0046] A still further alternative embodiment is to substitute the EVA film layer with nylon film, to provide H.sub.2O and O.sub.2 barrier properties. In any case, the preferred embodiment at the time of this application is to co-extrude the alternating LDPE/EVA/LDPE film structures, and the alternate embodiment is to adhesive laminate the film structure using an adhesive resulting in an overall LDPE/ADH/EVA/ADH/LDPE film structure.

[0047] While keeping oxygen out is important, removing oxygen as illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6 from the bag during the filling process is also very important. Through a dual approach of nitrogen flush as illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8 and by vacuum sealing, which removes and also displaces oxygen inside the bag, the oxygen content is reduced, preferably to just 1%. Importantly, the innovative N.sub.2 purge renders the atmosphere inside the package inert.

[0048] Also, the torrefied particles are immobilized through vacuum compression, which prevents ignition by friction. It has been suggested that shaking and vibrating of the material particles inside regular Type A woven polypropylene supersacks and not immobilized through the novel and unique vacuum compression method, system and structures in accordance with the embodiments, herein could produce static sparking, or heat from friction caused by the particles rubbing against each other, or against the walls of the bulk bag. Both sparking and friction hot spots in prior systems are possible sources of ignition to the highly flammable torrefied biomass. In accordance with the embodiments herein, however, compressing the particles immobilizes them, which prevents the particles from rubbing against each other, or against the wall of the bulk sack, thereby preventing the generation of a static discharge or heat from friction.

[0049] To best help facilitate providing the inert atmosphere within the subject bag as well as to help provide for the immobilization of the product within the bag, the container 10 of the example embodiment further includes a fill spout operatively coupled with the bag at an opening thereof, and a flexible bladder member carried on the fill spout adjacent to the second opening. The fill spout has a generally cylindrical conformation defining a first opening in fluid tight connection with the product fill opening of the bag, and a second opening configured to receive the associated filled product into the bag through the fill spout and the product fill opening. In addition, the flexible bladder member is configured to be selectively inflatable for selectively coupling the fill spout with an associated fill tube communicating the associated product. The bladder member is operative to couple the fill spout with the associated fill tube when the bladder is in an inflated condition and to decouple and release the fill spout from the associated fill tube when the bladder member is in a deflated condition

[0050] The unique structure of the subject bulk bag apparatus simultaneously: substantially eliminates static sparking, removes oxygen from inside the sack, replaces it with inert nitrogen, and compresses the contents to prevent ignition by friction. No other known bulk sack offers this degree of protection.

[0051] In accordance with an embodiment, in a bag filling process as best shown in FIG. 11, the subject bulk bag apparatus is placed into an associated form that can have, for example, a box shape, and can, for example, be made of metal, plastic, wood or any other material. This allows the bags to fill to a uniform shape to minimize damage during handling, permit stacking, and to provide a visual cue that the contents are under vacuum. It is to be appreciated that the subject bulk bag apparatus in accordance with the example embodiment comprises a fill spout which is fitted with a rubber bladder. The fill spout is selectively inflatable with compressed air to draw the neck tight around a fill tube of the associated filling system, to eliminate combustible dust or contaminants from being released during filling. After a vacuum is drawn on the bag contents, the sack is removed from the form, but retains the shape and dimensions of the form, because of the vacuum. Also, preferably during the filling process, the subject bulk bag apparatus is placed on or in an associated compaction table of an associated filling system, wherein the associated compaction table vibrates to settle and help compress the incoming material and also move the oxygen out (FIGS. 7 and 8).

[0052] More particularly, the method 150 method of packing a container with an associated product, the method comprises an initial step 152 of coupling a fill spout of the container with a fill tube of an associated filling apparatus. It is to be appreciated that the bag is provided with a 3/16'' to 1/4'' melt seal 90 at a discharge spout thereof, and that the melt seal 90 is indeed sealed before coupling the fill spout of the container with a fill tube of an associated filling apparatus. In any case, the associated product is flowed at step 153 into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container. Next, at step 154 oxygen (O.sub.2) is drawn from an inner cavity of the container. Nitrogen (N.sub.2) is added at step 155 into the inner cavity through the fill spout of the container to purge the bag of any remaining oxygen. A negative pressure is drawn at step 156 within the inner cavity relative to areas outside of the container. Lastly, the fill spout of the container is sealed at step 157 while the bag is under negative pressure.

[0053] Preferably, the drawing the negative pressure immobilizes the associated product within the inner cavity by inward pressure of a wall of the container on the associated product. The drawing of the negative pressure beneficially immobilizes the associated product within the inner cavity by inward pressure of a wall of the container on the associated product. This helps to ensure that no movement between the product pieces occurs due to product settling and during handing of the bag such as during transport or the like. Also preferably, the sealing comprises sealing the fill spout of the container while the inner chamber is under a negative pressure relative to the areas outside of the container. In that way, vacuum sealing immobilization through vacuum compression holds the product within the bag in a tight pack thereby minimizing the chance of relative movement between the product pieces and therefore also minimizing the chance for friction buildup between the product pieces during handling and/or transport of the subject bulk bag.

[0054] In a preferred embodiment, as the filling progresses, in a vacuum process stage, the sealer measures the air pressure content and once the desired PSI is achieved, preferably about 20'' Hg or, equivalently, about 12 PSI, the vacuum portion of the associated filling system automatically turns off. A vacuum of about 10 PSI would work very well also. This vacuuming process takes approximately 4 minutes. The fill and discharge spouts of the associated filling system are designed to allow re-use and re-filling of the subject bulk bag apparatus in accordance with the example embodiment, resulting in greater cost efficiency.

[0055] In addition, while, for purposes of simplicity of explanation, the methodology 150 of FIG. 11 is shown and described as executing serially, it is to be understood and appreciated that the example embodiment is not limited by the illustrated order, as some aspects could occur in different orders and/or concurrently with other aspects from that shown and described herein. Moreover, not all illustrated features may be required to implement a methodology in accordance with an aspect the example embodiment. Example methodologies described herein are suitably adapted to be implemented in any system, devices, hardware, or a combination thereof.

[0056] In a further embodiment, the diameter of a bottom spout of the subject bulk bag apparatus is increased from industry standard diameter of 15,'' to a 20'' diameter to help prevent bridging and rat-holing of the material contained within the bag, and to help achieve free flow during discharge.

[0057] In one embodiment, the subject bulk bag apparatus in accordance with the example embodiment has a 51 cubic foot capacity. However, it is to be appreciated that the embodiments are not limited to this size or to any other size, and may take on any dimensions as may be necessary or desired. The subject bulk sack dimensions are determined by the bulk density of the given torrefied material (biochar, biocoal, plastic fillers, sorbents, etc.). Therefore, subject bag size will vary to accommodate the most efficient configuration for the subject material bulk density. The objective in custom sizing the subject bulk sacks by the material contents bulk density is to permit more efficient double stacking of the sacks into a transport container. Stacking the subject sacks into two layers, instead of one layer inside a shipping container maximizes the weight per shipment of the products, by as much as 40% per shipment over a single layer of larger bulk sacks. The intentional smaller size and compressed, preformed cube shape of each subject sack permits easier stacking and improved handling characteristics, with less chance of damage to the sack, because the subject sack conforms precisely with the outside dimensions of the associated pallets and does not overhang. The most common damage to bulk sacks occurs when forklift operators puncture the bulk sack at a point where the filled bag overhangs the pallet. The second most common damage to filled bulk sacks occurs when the same bag overhang snags against a protuberance inside the shipping container when loading the sacks by forklift. The preformed cube shape of the subject bag does not overhang the pallet dimensions, so the chance of damage during handling is much reduced. The ability to make the subject bag conform to a pre-formed shape is unique to the industry, and no other bulk sack offers this solution.

[0058] In the embodiments herein, preferably, the liner of FIGS. 3 and 10 is located into and then sewn into the Type B dissipative shell (FIGS. 2 and 9) as shown in FIG. 4. Production bulk bag apparatus include dissipative shells that are form-fitted to the liner to present a clean, cube like appearance. The cube shape makes it less liable to damage during handling and facilitates stacking.

[0059] The embodiments herein combine a vacuum sealing process, static dissipative materials, vacuum compression, unusually strong, airtight construction, N.sub.2 purge, with large bulk sacks having liners to provide a unique bulk packaging solution for the emerging torrefaction industry. In this regard, primarily though not necessarily exclusively for purposes of scaling the packaging to a 1500 lb highly functional supersack, for example, the subject FIBC package is specifically designed to help reduce the chance of fire or explosion with torrefied materials or biochar, by removing one or more legs of the Fire (Combustion) Triangle or Explosion Pentagon. The subject bulk package helps to remove heat (ignition sources) and oxygen, which comprise two of the legs of the combustion triangle. Fire cannot occur unless all three legs are present. If one or more legs are removed, then fire is impossible. Potential sources of heat like friction or static sparking are also limited in the design of the embodiments herein. Likewise with the explosion pentagon; by removing one or more legs of the pentagon, namely, oxygen and heat, an explosion cannot occur. The subject bulk sack is designed to help eliminate two required conditions for a fire or explosion to occur--oxygen and heat.

[0060] It is to be appreciated that the embodiments of the liner shown in FIG. 2 and of the dissipative shell shown in FIG. 3 are for purposes of illustrating the novel concepts of the subject bulk bag apparatus and for explanation thereof. It is to be further appreciated that the embodiments of the liner shown in FIG. 9 and of the dissipative shell shown in FIG. 10 are preferred commercial embodiments having the proportions and properties as specified in FIGS. 10 and 12, respectively.

[0061] Some features of the bulk bag apparatus described herein include, but are not necessarily limited to: Type B static Dissipative Shell helps reduce static charge build up and prevent sparking; proprietary ldpe/adh/eva/adh/ldpe film structure with static dissipative additive also helps to eliminate static sparking events; and the airtight, watertight, high barrier properties of the proprietary film liner structure prevents oxygen from transferring through the package walls, keeping oxygen away from the contents during transport and storage.

[0062] Vacuum sealing removes oxygen from inside the subject bulk sack to prevent contents from igniting. The N.sub.2 purge displaces residual oxygen inside the subject bulk sack to prevent contents from igniting, and surrounds the contents with inert gas. Vacuum compresses and immobilizes the particles for shipment, and prevents friction hot spots as a source of ignition. The cubed form of the bag apparatus reduces chance of damage from handling (the cube does not overhang the pallet). The discharge spout diameter has been increased from the industry standard 15'' to 20'' diameter, depending on the flow characteristics of the torrefied material to be packaged. The increased spout diameter increases the angle of repose of the packed material, reduces bridging and rat holing during discharge, and facilitates free flow of the material out of the subject bulk package.

[0063] All seals in the subject package have been increased from industry standard 1/4'' width to 3/8'' width to provide sufficient strength and reduce the chance of seam leakage.

[0064] Example embodiments of the subject bulk bag apparatus for safe storage and transport of torrefied materials provide a unique innovative vacuum packaging with N.sub.2 purge to prevent fire of torrefied biomass. This is an emerging industry with new and unique safety concerns, which require novel solutions such as are provided by the embodiments of the subject bulk bag apparatus.

[0065] Described above are example embodiments. It is, of course, not possible to describe every conceivable combination of components or methodologies, but one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many further combinations and permutations of the example embodiments are possible. Accordingly, this application is intended to embrace all such alterations, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims interpreted in accordance with the breadth to which they are fairly, legally and equitably entitled.

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