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Ammonium nitrate .. What is the Beirut explosion the first incident in the world because of it?

This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.

Weather of Arabia - Ammonium nitrate, the cause of the massive explosion that occurred in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday 4 August 2020, was stored in a warehouse in the port of Beirut.


Where Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab stated that 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is usually used as agricultural fertilizer, was stored for a period of six years in a port warehouse without safety measures.


What are Ammonium nitrate and what are its uses?

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical with the molecular formula " NH4NO3 ", a white crystalline solid and odorless, highly soluble in water. Mostly used in agriculture as high nitrogen fertilizer.


Uses of ammonium nitrate

Ammonium nitrate has several uses other than making fertilizers:

  • It enters as an explosive mixture used in mining and quarrying and is the main component of ANFO , which is a popular industrial explosive that accounts for 80% of the explosives used in America
  • Antibiotic and yeast production
  • It also interferes in making matches and fireworks .


Ammonium nitrate properties

Ammonium nitrate also has several properties, including:

  • Soluble in water
  • When burned, the ammonium nitrate material produces toxic nitrogen oxides .
  • It is a strong oxidizer, and contact with other substances may cause fire or explosion.
  • It does not burn easily and does not explode easily, as confirmed Jimmy Oxley, a professor of chemistry at the University of Rhode Island (eastern United States of America) who conducted studies on the ignition of ammonium nitrate "is very difficult to ignite" as it is "not easy to detonate ."

A technical note from the French Ministry of Agriculture clarified that an explosion can only be made by contacting an incompatible substance or a high temperature source. Hence, storage should be subject to rules in order to isolate ammonium nitrate from flammable liquids (fuel, oils, etc.), corrosive liquids, flammable solids or even high-temperature materials, according to France 24.


Disasters the world has witnessed due to ammonium nitrate from 1916 to 2020


The world witnessed major disasters due to the misuse of ammonium nitrate, but we have chosen for you the most prominent of these incidents

  • The Big Bang in the UK , on April 2, 1916, as a factory in Apples exploded after a fire spread to a warehouse containing 25 tons of TNT and 700 tons of ammonium nitrate. The blast killed 115 people and shattered windows in Southend-on-Sea across the mouth of the Thames while Norwich residents felt like an earthquake
  • The BASF Obau factory explosion in Germany on September 27, 1921 killed 561 people and injured more than 2,000
  • In Belgium , another attempt to dismantle a pile of 150 tons of ammonium nitrate with industrial explosives ended tragically on April 29, 1942, killing 189 people and wounding 900.
  • The Texas City disaster that started after the cargo ship Grandcamp was loaded on April 16, 1947 (part of the cargo that loaded 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate) as a fire was discovered in the store, one hour later, the ship exploded, killing several hundred people and igniting Another ship, the High Flyer , was anchored 250 meters away and contained 1050 tons of sulfur and 960 tons of ammonium nitrate. The Grandcamp explosion also created a powerful shock that smashed windows 40 miles away and toppled two small planes flying at a height of 1500 feet (460 meters) in the sky, and the High Flyer also exploded the next day, after it burned for sixteen hours. All firefighters died except for One member in Texas City.
  • On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, in Oklahoma, detonated a two-ton container of compost in front of a federal building, killing 168 people .
  • In France as well, a large amount of about 300 tons of ammonium nitrate stacked in large quantities exploded in the warehouse of the AZF factory in the southern suburbs of the city of Toulouse (southwest of the country) in 2001 and heard a sound 80 km away and killed 30 people and caused Destruction in the fourth largest city of France .
  • North Korea's Ryongchon disaster : A freight train carrying ammonium nitrate exploded in this important iron city near the Chinese border on April 22, 2004, killing 162 people and injuring more than 3,000 others. Because of the blast, the train station and most of the buildings were destroyed within 500 meters, and nearly 8,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. Two craters 10 meters deep were seen at the site of the explosion.
  • On September 10, 2007, near Mexico City, Mexico, a pickup truck lost control and crashed into a trailer loaded with 22 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosives ( ANFO ) leaving three passengers in the pickup truck dead in the crash. Then a fire broke out in the trailer compartment and about 40 minutes later, a huge explosion occurred, killing 37 people and injuring about 150 others.
  • In the United States, in 2013, a massive explosion at a West Fertilizer fertilizer plant in West Texas, the town of West, killed 15 people, as ammonium nitrate stockpiles exploded in a deliberate accident .
  • 2015 Tianjin Explosions in China : The nitrocellulose stored in a dangerous goods warehouse was automatically burned after it became extremely hot and dry, resulting in a fire that led 40 minutes later to detonate about 800 tons of ammonium nitrate stored nearby. 110 emergency personnel and 55 residents and employees were killed, while eight were missing. 798 people were injured. There was heavy damage to structures and goods at the port, damage to surrounding residential buildings, and severe damage to a railway station.
  • The huge explosion of Beirut, August 4, 2020 , the burning of 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate caused a very large explosion in the capital, Beirut, accompanied by tens of deaths, thousands of casualties, and billions of losses.


This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.
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