The explosion in Beirut last week was catastrophic. The aftermath of the blast in Lebanon, involving a stated 2,750t of ammonium nitrate, looks devastating. The unfortunate loss of life and number of injured people is horrific. Our hearts go out to all the families that have been involved in this terrible disaster.
For an event like this to occur, it isn’t enough to expose the ammonium nitrate to fire. AN is an “oxidiser” and to get an explosion it must be mixed with fuel and have a source of ignition. Commercial explosives suppliers and mining companies use this reaction in a controlled manner every day to access the ores and minerals that have become so important in modern life.
However, to store ammonium nitrate safely, a number of important precautions should be followed. These procedures usually involve the following important points:
• Location of stores away from residences and critical infrastructure
• Strictly no fuel sources such as wood, diesel or other organic products
• Individual stacks of product less than 500t
• Adequate room between the stacks to reduce the risk of an issue in one stack propagating to another
• Strict control of personnel in the storage area and the movement of any vehicles
• Good ventilation to prevent the product ever becoming confined
• Suitable drainage to protect the environment if rainwater becomes contaminated and to manage any molten ammonium nitrate in the event of an incident
• Deluge systems (for large stores)
• Limitations on the age of the product to prevent it breaking down and becoming more sensitive to initiation and to avoid
the risk of caking
Many people think “it couldn’t happen here” and whilst this may be true, we urge everyone involved in the storage, handling or use of ammonium nitrate to pause and critically review your facilities, process, procedures and training. Consider an independent audit to check activities being conducted against your procedures, to ensure everything is being done to minimise the risk of an incident ever occurring.
We all need to continue to be vigilant when it comes to blasting agents, such as ammonium nitrate, to ensure we maintain the highest possible level of safety for the people and property that they can potentially effect.
At Moncourt Group, we specialise in all aspects of ammonium nitrate and commercial explosives and can provide deep insights and understanding of the products, markets and industry.