The remains of a fertilizer plant burn after an explosion inWest, TX (near Waco) Photograph: Mike Stone/Reuters
A relatively small fertilizer retail and storage facility – NOT a manufacturing facility
Close proximity to a surprising # of institutional facilities
More than 150 people were treated for injuries at the localhospital as well as at Waco, 18 miles away, and Dallas, 80 milesaway.Units from 30 fire departments brought the blaze at the WestFertilizer Company plant under control by midnight.Fears that a second fertiliser tank might explode receded butauthorities continued to evacuate residents amid concern abouttoxic fumes.David Argueta, vice-president of operations at Wacos HillcrestBaptist medical centre, said staff had treated lacerations andorthopaedic-type injuries. "We are being told that we have seenmost of the patients, and its now turned into a search-and-rescue operation on scene."
On April 16, 1947 – 66 years and one day to yesterday’s explosion – theGrandcamp was being loaded with ammonium nitrate as well as tobacco andgovernment-owned ammunition. Cigarette smoking, although officiallybanned, was a common practice by longshoremen on the docks. Just twodays prior to the explosion, a cigarette had caused a fire on the docks. On themorning of April 16, smoke was spotted deep within one of the Grandcamp’sholds.Some water and an extinguisher were used to fight the fire, but hoses werenot employed for fear of ruining the cargo; there were already 2,300 tonsloaded on the ship. While the ammunition was removed from the ship, thecrew attempted to restrict oxygen to the hold in hopes of putting out the fire.Apparently they did not realize that because of ammonium nitrate’s chemicalcomposition, it does not require oxygen in order to burn.By 9 a.m., flames had erupted from the hold and within minutes it exploded.The blast was heard 150 miles away and was so powerful that the ship’s 1.5-ton anchor was found two miles away. The force of the explosion liftedanother ship right out of the water. People working at the docks were killedinstantly.
Pieces of flaming debris damaged the oil refineries in the area. Anearby Monsanto chemical storage facility also exploded, killing 234 ofthe 574 workers there. Nearly all of the survivors were seriously injured.A residential area of 500 homes was also leveled by the blast.Another ship, the High Flyer, which was carrying similar cargo, waspushed completely across the harbor. The crew fled when it came torest, failing to notice that a fire had started and the next day their shipalso exploded. Two people died.In all, 581 people died and 3,500 were injured. The explosion caused$100 million in damages. A long-disputed court case over the cause ofthe blast was resolved when Congress granted compensation to 1,394victims. They received a total of $17 million in 1955. The port wasrebuilt to handle oil products only.”
The Port Neal fertilizer plant explosion occurred on December 13, 1994 in theammonium nitrate plant at the Terra International, Inc., Port Neal Complex, 16 milessouth of Sioux City, IA. Four workers at the plant were killed by the explosion, andeighteen others were injured. The seven-storey building at the seat of the blast wascompletely destroyed, leaving only a crater, and significant damage was inflicted to thesurrounding structures. Four nearby electricity generating stations were disabled by theexplosion, and the effects of the blast were felt up to 30 miles away. A high-voltage linerunning adjacent to the plant and over the Missouri River was damaged, disruptingpower in the neighboring state of Nebraska. Two 15,000-ton refrigerated ammoniastorage tanks were ruptured, releasing liquid ammonia and ammonia vapors whichforced the evacuation of 1,700 residents from the surrounding area.An investigation conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)concluded in 1996 that the explosion was initiated by an accelerated thermaldecomposition reaction as "a direct result of unsafe operating procedures andconditions" at the plant. The EPA had conducted a safety audit at the plant just eightmonths prior to the explosion. The plant was Iowas largest producer of nitrogen-basedfertilizers and its loss contributed to a national 50% increase in the cost of fertilizer bythe following year (NEED TO FACT CHECK).
SIOUX CITY, Iowa, Dec. 23 1997 /PRNewswire/ --Terra Industries Inc. (NYSE: TRA) announced today that ithas reached a settlement with Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI)on its insurance claims for property damages and businessinterruption losses arising from the 1994 explosion at TerrasPort Neal, Iowa fertilizer plant. IRI is one of the six insurancecarrier defendants Terra sued in April of this year in SiouxCity federal district court to recover on its claims. Under thesettlement, IRI agreed to pay Terra its proportionate share(50 percent of the overall insurance coverage) of a total claimfixed at $321 million. Previously, Terra settled with all of theother five insurance carrier defendants, who collectively paidthe other 50 percent share of a $321 million settlement.
Inspections of the West Fertilizer Co. by various agenciesin recent years resulted in fines of more than $12,000 forlax compliance in developing risk management andsecurity plans.In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency fined WestFertilizer $2,300 after discovering the company had failedto update its risk management plan, which includes ananalysis of the potential consequences of a worst-caseaccident as well as its emergency planning information.The following slides contain publicly accessible info thatneeds fact checking but suggests that the West Fertilizercompany had a poor track record with respect to recordkeeping and state and federal program compliance
The EPA requires such plans of all facilities that store large quantities ofammonia. The company was supposed to update its plan in 2004, but didn’t doso for another two years, inspectors found. Inspectors also found that thecompany kept poor training records, had not developed a formal writtenmaintenance program, and had operating procedures that failed to address the“consequences of deviation.”According to the EPA, the company “certified they corrected the deficiencies,”and filed and updated plan in 2011 as required.Last summer, the company was fined $10,100 by the U.S. Pipeline and HazardousMaterials Safety Administration after an inspector determined that ittransported anhydrous ammonia in non-specification unauthorized cargo tanksand did so without the required security plan. Such a plan is aimed at thwartingtheft of a material that could be used to build an explosive.West Fertilizer paid the government $5,250 after asking to pay a lower amountbecause of problems with “finances,” according to agency documents.
In Texas, commercial fertilizer operations must register with the Office of theState Chemist’s Feed and Fertilizer Control Service. The agency, part of TexasA&M AgriLife Research, appears primarily to test quality of fertilizer content.Recent records show West Fertilizer had nine samples tested in 2011, failing two.State Chemist Tim Herrman also said the plant was inspected recently, butdeclined to provide details.The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also collects air qualitycomplaints against businesses. Two have been filed against West, according tostate records. One, filed in 2002, was descriptive: “THERE IS A CLOUD OF DUST.PARTICLES ARE FALLING LIKE SNOW AROUND TOWN. PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TOCOMPLAIN, HOWEVER THIS IS EFFECTING NEIGHBORS HEALTH WITH SCRATCHYTHROATS, COUGH AND SNEEZING.”It’s unclear how this was resolved.The second complaint, filed in 2006, was of a strong smell of ammonia comingfrom the plant.
Fertilizer is regulated at both the federaland state levels. Federal agencies ofjurisdiction include the Department ofHomeland Security, the EnvironmentalProtection Agency, the OccupationalHealth and Safety Administration and theDepartment of Transportation. At the statelevel, fertilizers are regulated by statedepartments of agriculture,transportation, environmental protection…
Facilities storing anhydrous ammonia in quantities of 10,000 lbs.or more are required to have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Clean Air Act Risk Management Programplan to address accidental releases of ammonia. Each facilitycovered under the act is required to conduct an offsiteconsequence analysis for a worst case accident, a hazardassessment and an accident prevention program.Facilities storing ammonium nitrate in quantities of 400 lbs. ormore are regulated under the Department of Homeland Security.Additionally, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)code 490 sets standards for the storage of ammonium nitrate.Ammonium nitrate is also regulated by the Department ofTransportation.
According the American National StandardsInstitute’s (ANSI) Standard for Storage andHandling of Anhydrous Ammonia, ammonia isextremely hard to ignite and is a relativelystable compound. The conditions favorablefor ignition are seldom encountered duringnormal operations due to the high ignitiontemperature required.
Each purchaser and seller will be required to apply for an Ammonium Nitrate(AN) Registered User Number with the Department, and each applicant will bescreened against the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). Following thescreening process, approved individuals will be issued an AN Registered UserNumber, which will allow them to engage in the sale, purchase, or transfer ofammonium nitrate.Transactions involving the sale or transfer of ammonium nitrate will beregulated at the point of sale and procedures for reporting a theft or loss ofammonium nitrate will be established. Ammonium nitrate sellers will berequired to deny sale or transfer of ammonium nitrate to individuals who:1) Do not possess a valid AN Registered User Number accompanied by a validphoto ID; or2) Are not authorized by a person possessing a valid AN Registered UserNumber to act on their behalf as an agent.The regulation will require businesses to keep records of all ammonium nitratetransactions for two years, and DHS may inspect and audit facility records toensure compliance.
In 1991, there were 58 U. S.ammonium nitrate plantslocated in 22 states producingabout 9 million tons ofammonium nitrate.Approximately 15 to 20percent of this amount wasused for explosives and thebalance for fertilizer.
Public comment by CF Industries representative (CF is thelargest US manufactor of fertilizer grade AN) on 4/4/2013:“Even though it (AN) has always made up a small part oftotal U.S. nitrogen fertilizer usage, over the last decade,and especially over the last six years, the ammoniumnitrate market has contracted substantially. The principalreason for this is that new security regulations governingthe handling of ammonium nitrate by distributors anddealers have led many of them to decide not to carry it. Inthose regions where ammonium nitrate is not stronglypreferred, many distributors and dealers have stoppedbuying the product. Today, the U.S. market is down toaround a million short tons, almost half of what it was justa few years ago.”
AN sold in the marketcontains an average of 33.5percent of nitrogen. Thiscompound is very soluble inwater; and if the water whichAN was dissolved at is heated,the by- product will be nitrousoxide which is commonlyreferred to as laughing gas.
The processes involved in the production of ammoniumnitrate in industry, although chemically simple, aretechnologically challenging. The acid-base reaction ofammonia with nitric acid gives a solution of ammoniumnitrate: HNO3(aq) + NH3(l) → NH4NO3(aq)For industrial production, this is done using anhydrousammonia gas and concentrated nitric acid. This reaction isviolent and very exothermic. After the solution is formed,typically at about 83% concentration, the excess water isevaporated to an ammonium nitrate (AN) content of 95% to99.9% concentration (AN melt), depending on grade.The AN melt is then made into "prills" or small beads in aspray tower, or into granules by spraying and tumbling in arotating drum. The prills or granules may be further dried,cooled, and then coated to prevent caking. These prills orgranules are the typical AN products in commerce.
When a person has inhaled AN, move him or her out to an open area so that fresh aircan be inhaled. In case of large dose inhalation, professional medical help must becalled immediately. While waiting for the help to arrive, it is important to take thevictim away from the site and transfer him or her to an open area where the air isclean. If the patient is not breathing, CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation must beperformed as soon as possible. Once the ambulance has arrived, oxygen will beadministered to facilitate the respiration.For eye contact, the affected eye must be flushed with running water for at leastfifteen minutes.When ammonium nitrate comes into contact with the skin, flush the area withrunning water for at least fifteen minutes as well. You can wash it with soap, and thenan emollient can be used to cover the irritated area. It is very important to get thesoiled clothing away from the body and they should be washed thoroughly beforeallowing the person to wear them again. The ammonium nitrate MSDS is very clearthat in any of these conditions, seeking medical attention is always part of theprotocol and should not be missed.Derived from the Ammonium Nitrate MSDS
If someone has ingested AN, call medical helpimmediately. As stated in the ammoniumnitrate MSDS, you should not induce vomiting.Always wait for the medical team to arrive andalways tell them how much has been ingestedand what time the incident had happened. Ifthe patient is unconscious and unresponsive,do not give anything by mouth.Ammonium nitrate has an LD50 of2217 mg/kg,which for comparison is abouttwo-thirds that of table salt.
The dissolution of AN in water is an endothermic reaction. There are two mainreactions that occur. When the polar molecules of the water separate the nitrateion from the ammonium ion, this produces an endothermic reaction. Heat isbeing absorbed so the person may feel cold. But when the ions that have beenseparated are now suspended in the remaining water in the solution, theybecome hydrated and this process is an exothermic reaction. An exothermicreaction produces heat since it gives off energy. More energy is required toseparate the ammonium and nitrate ions than to hydrate the ions, so the onlyreaction that is physically felt is the endothermic one.AN is used in instant cold packs
There are two major classes of incidents involving AN thatresult in explosions:1) explosion happens by the mechanism of shock-to-detonationtransition. The initiation happens by an explosive charge going off in themass, by the detonation of a shell thrown into the mass, or bydetonation of an explosive mixture in contact with the mass.2) explosion results from a fire that spreads into the ammonium nitrateitself or from a mixture of ammonium nitrate with a combustiblematerial during the fire. The fire must be confined at least to a degreefor successful transition from a fire to an explosion (a phenomenonknown as "deflagration-to-detonation transition", or DDT). Pure,compact AN is stable and very difficult to ignite, and there are numerouscases when even impure AN did not explode in a fire.
ANFO (or AN/FO, for ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) is a widely usedbulk industrial explosive mixture.It consists of 94 percent porous prilled ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3),(AN) that acts as the oxidizing agent and absorbent for the fuel – sixpercent number 2 fuel oil (FO).ANFO has found wide use in coal mining, quarrying, metal mining,and civil construction in undemanding applications where theadvantages of ANFOs low cost and ease of use matter more than thebenefits offered by conventional industrial explosives, such as waterresistance, oxygen balance, high detonation velocity, andperformance in small diameters.It accounts for an estimated 80% of the 6,000,000,000 pounds ofexplosives used annually in North America.
ANFO under most conditions is cap-insensitive, and so it is classified as ablasting agent and not a high explosive.It reacts through detonation rather thandeflagration with a velocity of about 3,200meters per second.It is a tertiary explosive consisting of distinctfuel and oxidizer phases and requiresconfinement for efficient detonation.
AN prills used forexplosive applications arephysically different fromfertilizer prills; the prillsused for explosiveapplication containapproximately 20% air.These prills are generallycalled explosives grade,low density, or industrialgrade ammoniumnitrate. Charging a hole with ANFO for rock blasting
The ANFO car bomb was adopted by the IRA in 1972and, by 1973, IRA operatives were using > 20 tons ofAN/yr.ANFO was also routinely used by groups such as theRevolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), andBasque separatists (ETA).Ramzi Yousef used ANFO to try to destroy the WorldTrade Center in 1993.A more sophisticated variant of ANFO (ammoniumnitrate with nitromethane as the fuel called ANNM) wasused in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The popularity of ANFO is largelyattributable to its low cost and highstability. In most jurisdictions,ammonium nitrate need not beclassified as an explosive for transportpurposes; it is merely an oxidizer. Manymines prepare ANFO on-site using thesame diesel fuel that powers theirvehicles.
Ammonium nitrate (AN) – produced by reacting nitric acid, an intermediate chemicalfeedstock produced from ammonia, with ammonia to form a concentrated, waterysolution that is subsequently solidified in a prilling or granulation process. Ammoniumnitrate is a solid fertilizer (containing approximately 34 percent nitrogen) typicallyapplied in solid form. Ammonium nitrate is water soluble and used in various fertilizersolutions.Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) – a mixture of AN and calcium or magnesiumcarbonate (containing 25-28 percent nitrogen), produced by mixing calcium and/ormagnesium carbonate into an ammonium nitrate solution before the solidificationprocess. The lime content of CAN also helps to neutralize soil acidity.Calcium nitrate (CN) – produced by dissolving a calcium salt such as limestone or thecalcium phosphate of phosphate rock in nitric acid. In the latter case, it is a co-productwith nitrophosphate products. CN is used to remedy plant deficiencies in calcium andameliorate soil acidification. It contains 15.5 percent nitrogen in nitrate form and 19percent water-soluble calcium. The product is water soluble and particularly suited forwater-born fertilizer application systems.Potassium nitrate (PN) – produced by reacting sodium nitrate with potassium chloride.Potassium nitrate is used as a potassium and nitrogen fertilizer. Potassium nitratecontains 13.5 percent nitrogen and 45 percent water-soluble potassium as K2O. Thewater suitability makes it particularly suited for liquid-based applications.NITRATE FERTILIZERS
AN vs. Urea – understanding their participation in the N cycle
CAN (and AN), due to a higher bulk density and lower nitrogen concentration,has more homogeneous spreading characteristics than urea. Wind degradespreading homogeneity with urea more than with AN/CAN, resulting insignificant local over- or under supply.
What is this blue thing on the top of the tractor?