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OT Fertilizer Plant explosion in Texas

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  • OT Fertilizer Plant explosion in Texas

    I feel for the people who were fighting the fire at that plant , I hope that it gets as much investigation and concern as the other tragic event in Boston .
    Michael

  • #2
    It's a bad scene for sure,5-15 people dead over 100 injured and looks like a large section of town flattened
    I just need one more tool,just one!

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    • #3
      It will be forgotten in a day or two.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Tony Ennis View Post
        It will be forgotten in a day or two.
        Yep, there is no political hay to be made from that. :-(
        I wonder if they will ever find the cause. If it was some safety thing that
        was not done will it ever come out? A sorry situation for sure.
        ...lew...

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        • #5
          I wonder how they could find out what happened unless workers got out safe? Being that the place is leveled now I can't imagine them locating the initial cause of the fire.
          Andy

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          • #6
            I am curious as well how this could have happened. A similar thing happened in Texas City a long time ago where a fire on a ship full of fertilizer flattened a town. You would think that such a factory would now be designed in a way that fires would never lead to detonations.

            Igor

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            • #7
              I think that the FUNDEMENTAL cause is complacency. That famous expression "everybody knows," in this case that ammonium nitrate is an oxidizer and requires another component to explode. WELLLLL, that is not exactly true, as was demonstrated in Texas City and since forgotten. If a fire gets going, involving a large quantity of ammonium nitrate then, at some point the chemical conditions change within the body of the fire, and the whole system detonates.
              Ammonium nitrate, mixed generously with building materials like wood, will burn like hell. If there is a large quantity of the ammonium nitrate WITHIN the fire area, it will heat up till, at some point, it will go boom.
              Duffy, Gatineau, Quebec

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              • #8
                Yep ammonia nitrate goes high order just after boiling. You can take a spoon full (metal spoon). And light the ammonia nitrate on fire from the top and be fine. Take the same spoon full and put fire underneath the spoon. The powder will turn to liquid then start to boil and boom.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jeremy13 View Post
                  Yep ammonia nitrate goes high order just after boiling. You can take a spoon full (metal spoon). And light the ammonia nitrate on fire from the top and be fine. Take the same spoon full and put fire underneath the spoon. The powder will turn to liquid then start to boil and boom.
                  I watched a video shot by a father with his son in a car. Pretty close to the fire. Smoke was billowing to the left. Just at the left edge of the image the smoke column detonated and spread quickly to the base and the entire thing went up. Quite an amazing thing.

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROrpKx3aIjA

                  Entirely possible it was an artifact of the "shutter" speed of the camera the way airplane props appear to stop or spin slowly. Single step the frames with your cursor key and watch the left side at 30 seconds.
                  Last edited by dp; 04-18-2013, 12:09 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ikdor View Post
                    I am curious as well how this could have happened. A similar thing happened in Texas City a long time ago where a fire on a ship full of fertilizer flattened a town. You would think that such a factory would now be designed in a way that fires would never lead to detonations.

                    Igor
                    The Texas City explosion was caused by an entirely different problem. Ammonium Nitrate tends to "clump" when it is wet and to solve this problem, they coated the ammonium nitrate prills with wax. There was a ship full of ammonium nitrate prills coated with wax being unloaded. When you have an oxidizer (ammonium nitrate) and a fuel (wax) mixed together, you have the ideal explosive mixture. It is thought a spark ignited some of the dust and being an ideal explosive composition (fuel and oxidizer) it detonated and it took the whole ship with it. Currently, ammonium nitrate prills are no longer coated with wax to prevent clumping.

                    As to the cause of the explosion at the manufacturing plant, there could be many causes, i.e. bearing overheated, careless smoking, lightening, static electricity, etc.
                    Bill

                    Being ROAD KILL on the Information Super Highway and Electronically Challenged really SUCKS!!

                    Every problem can be solved through the proper application of explosives, duct tape, teflon, WD-40, or any combo of the aforementioned items.

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                    • #11
                      DP- I would have to guess that is a reflection in the camera lens. I found what you are talking about one time and can’t catch the image agene. If you look the fire burning to the right of the fire is a dark tree. Just above the tree and to the left is a dark object (roof top?) At 30 sec the plume of fire gets bigger just before the explosion.

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                      • #12
                        That video literally blows me away - it gives great perspective as to the amount of power - and that's no wide angle lens - that place was pretty far back and it still rocked their world, my god that was powerful.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Duffy View Post
                          I think that the FUNDEMENTAL cause is complacency. That famous expression "everybody knows," in this case that ammonium nitrate is an oxidizer and requires another component to explode. WELLLLL, that is not exactly true, as was demonstrated in Texas City and since forgotten. If a fire gets going, involving a large quantity of ammonium nitrate then, at some point the chemical conditions change within the body of the fire, and the whole system detonates.
                          Ammonium nitrate, mixed generously with building materials like wood, will burn like hell. If there is a large quantity of the ammonium nitrate WITHIN the fire area, it will heat up till, at some point, it will go boom.
                          I would expect complacency. I've seen complacency first-hand in the following explosion:

                          http://www.esdjournal.com/static/fireworks/kilgore.htm

                          I had done work for this company in the past and it always made me nervous to go there. They would have open 5-gallon buckets of powder all over the place while they were making the fireworks mortars and carpet on the floors in hallways and assembly rooms. No concrete bunkers separating things, just partitioned wood paneled walls. I asked the owner one time about static electricity from the carpet potentially setting off the whole place. His reply to me was, "When you work with this stuff as long as we have, you learn what you can get away with.". You only get away with some things so long ... the laws of nature will many times bit your ass and kill you and many people around you. The owner survived the explosion (he was not there at the time), but died several years later in a motorcycle accident.
                          Cheers,
                          Gary

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                          • #14
                            My semi-educated guess is that this was started by vandalism.
                            I've worked around the agriculture industry for 10 years. Looking at the google earth view of West Fertilizer, it looks more like a dealership or co-op than a manufacturer. You can see 4 semi trailer tankers, that would have been used to store anhydrous ammonia, near where the blast crater is showing on the news. These tanks are frequent targets for vandals, in rural areas, as it is a needed ingredient when making meth. When exposed to the air, anhydrous breaks down into nitrogen and hydrogen... hence the boom. When you hear about a meth house blowing up, its is usually the result of mishandling the anhydrous. Accidents are frequent when the thieves are trying to figure out how to use the valves on the tanks, just doesn't usually go this horribly wrong.

                            BTW, great forum here. I've been lurking for two years, decided it was time to sign up last week.

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                            • #15
                              WOW, that was a little more than I expected, and with any luck the kids ears are not shot. Ammonium Nitrate is nasty stuff, and why its the choice of idiots making fuel bombs. Just needs heat and a bit of fuel and combustion is very rapid and complete. Chances are it was an "industrial accident" as it doesn't take much to get to the "runaway point". Probably a typical "lazy lack of respect" after doing the same thing for years with no issues, see it all the time in my work. sometimes it only takes a bit of "normal" stuff to cause issues. Ever see what happens at a paper plant where the rafters are covered in a few inches of paper dust and a fire starts .... like a grain silo blast on steroids. Its all about the "surface area" of the stuff that's burning

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