Saturday, 20 April 2013

Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer: A deadly history

Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer: A deadly history, This weeks disaster at a fertilizer plant in the small Texas town of West, reminded us all of how dangerous common chemicals and substances can be under the right circumstances. Texas officials now believe that the massive explosion which rocked the residents of West to their core and leveled four blocks of the town, also claimed the lives of 14 people, most of whom where first responders.

This is not the first time we have seen the deadly results of an explosion from the commonly used and readily available fertilizer, Ammonium Nitrate. The small white prills are used heavily as a fertilizer in farming. It is also used as a quarry explosive because its high explosive properties can easily shatter rock yet it is extremely stable under normal conditions. The chemical has properties that degrade during high heat and at temperatures over 200 Celsius, it produces highly flammable Nitrous Oxide.

On April 16, 1947 another Texas town saw first hand, the deadly effects Ammonium Nitrate can have when it is heated. Residents of waterside port of Texas City, near Galveston, flocked to the towns waterfront to watch the ongoing fire that had started hours earlier on a ship moored there. The 437 foot-long SS Grandcamp had been burning since mid morning after a deckhand noticed smoke coming from a cargo hold. As the fire department responded, none of them could have possibly known how dire the situation really was.

The Grandcamp had been transporting 2,300 tons of Ammonium Nitrate when at 9:12 a.m., the cargo detonated. The blast was so severe; it blew the ships anchor ½ mile into town and created a 15 foot tsunami. All total, 567 residents were killed and over 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

The blast shattered windows in Houston, 45 miles away. It was also heard in Louisiana, over100 miles away. The explosion injured over 5,000.

No comments:

Post a Comment