All rights reserved. It’s known to predispose people to the worst effects of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. The ammonium nitrate never made it to Mozambique, the source said, and instead was kept in a container at Beirut's port for over six years before exploding earlier this week. According to the Lebanese government, about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was stored in a warehouse on the Beirut waterfront and caught fire, later exploding. Since 1916, the chemical has been responsible for at least 30 disasters, some accidental and some intentional. There were 2600 tonnes of ammonium nitrate on board. The captain closed the hold and pumped in pressurized steam. An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos and the surrounding area on August 5, 2020, one day after a massive explosion hit the heart of the Lebanese capital. Even a small amount of contamination would have made the ammonium nitrate more likely to detonate. Any carbon-rich fuel—paper, cardboard, or even sugar—can pair with ammonium nitrate to produce more intense energy. An ammonium nitrate explosion produces massive amounts of nitrogen oxides. The chemical is often used as fertilizer — and in explosives. Injuries surpassed more than 5,000; the blast destroyed 500 homes and the smoke from it billowed for days. One is by some type detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with explosive mixture. EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; Explosion Hazard from Ammonium Nitrate. It is classified as an oxidiser (Grade 5.1) under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods. The vehicle was packed with nearly 2,300kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser mixed with fuel oil and attached to blasting caps. Such investigations may take time. But Lebanon's Interior Minister said the blast was a store of about 2,750 tonnes of seized ammonium nitrate blowing up. What detonated the explosive compound remains unclear—but the Beirut blast is not the first time ammonium nitrate has led to calamity. Or, this discrepancy might mean that the material inside the warehouse was not pure ammonium nitrate, and some other compound was involved with the blast. It also destroyed Texas City in 1947 and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Ammonium nitrate: what is it and why did it cause the blast in Beirut? The ensuing explosion killed some 600 people, including everyone on the dock and ship. Am Morgen um 7:32 Uhr kam es zu zwei kurz aufeinanderfolgenden Explosionen von etwa 400 Tonnen Ammoniumsulfatnitrat, einem Düngemittel. The Great Explosion: On April 2, 1916, at 14:20, a factory in Uplees, Faversham, exploded … Ammonium nitrate was involved in the 1947 Texas City disaster, one of the largest industrial explosions in history. If the ammonium nitrate in Beirut was stored in wooden or cardboard containers, it would have made the substance incredibly flammable, says Jimmie Oxley, a chemist at the University of Rhode Island. In 1947, an explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed at least 581 people and wounded 3,500 after two cargo ships carrying ammonium nitrate caught fire. Documents unearthed by Al Jazeera say the ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut aboard a Russian-owned cargo ship after the vessel experienced mechanical problems at sea. When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives. Beirut officials have identified ammonium nitrate as the base component of Tuesday's explosion. Large quantities of stored ammonium nitrate are regarded as a major fire hazard, with multiple reported cases across the world. Though Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, estimates it’s probably closer to 400 tons. In April 1995, American terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used two tons of the compound in a truck-bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building; 168 people were killed. “It will oxidize that fuel very rapidly, create a huge amount of gas, and give off a huge amount of heat. An ammonium nitrate explosion produces massive amounts of nitrogen oxides. The decomposition temperature of pure ammonium nitrate is 170 °C, but recently Gunawan and Zhang [6] calculated that an intimate mixture of ammonium nitrate and pyrite can decompose at temperatures as low as 50 °C in blast holes more than 0.2 m in diameter. This week, a massive explosion involving ammonium nitrate rocked the city of Beirut, sending shock waves through the media.. In 2015, disaster struck in Tianjin, China, when a fertilizer explosion killed 165 people at a busy seaport. 559 Menschen wurden durch die Explosionen getötet und … The chemicals reportedly have been sitting by the docks since 2013. powerful explosion that devastated the city. Given the reported amount, Oxley hypothesizes that a vehicle must have been used to carry the compound inside, and that could have contaminated it with oil or gasoline. Aluminum sulfate has also been used as a drying additive for ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate would only explode on its own if its temperature was rapidly raised to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2013, ammonium nitrate caused a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Though ammonium nitrate was first synthesized in 1659 by German chemist Johann Rudolf Glauber, it wasn’t used in explosives until World War I, when weapon makers mixed it with TNT (aka dynamite) to make cheaper bombs. In the Beirut explosion, the resulting shockwave moved faster than the speed of sound; cell phone videos show the impact washing over the city a few seconds before a sonic boom rumbles. Explosions of ammonium nitrate, involving relatively small quantities, have occurred during the preparation of nitrous oxide. Lebanese officials say ammonium nitrate, a substance used as fertilizer in agriculture, likely caused the massive explosion in Beirut. Chinese authorities claimed the first explosion had been triggered after the heat of summer caused a highly flammable compound called nitrocellulose to spontaneously catch fire. What sparked the explosion is still unknown. Experts believe the cause of the explosion is linked to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at a warehouse at the port in Lebanon's capital since 2014. The ammonium and nitrate molecules break down, and a large amount of oxygen gas is suddenly formed. Annually, the world produces and stores enormous amounts of ammonium nitrate—more than 20 million tons in 2017. The cargo ship Grandcamp was in Texas City harbor being loaded when a fire was detected in the hold. The gas released from the decomposing fertiliser is what drives the explosion. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Lebanese authorities are blaming the incident on more than 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance commonly used in fertilizers as well as in explosives for mining and construction projects. Rescuers searched for survivors in Beirut in the morning after a cataclysmic explosion at the port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people, wounding thousands and plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis. There were 2,750 tons of the fertilizer in the Beirut warehouse, roughly equivalent to 1,155 tons of TNT, which would produce a large enough blast wave to destroy most buildings within around 800 feet, and would shatter glass far beyond a range of 1.25 miles. Oxidizers do the opposite: They increase the amount of oxygen molecules that concentrate in a space, which helps make other substances more flammable. Ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse linked to catastrophic Beirut explosion By Helen Regan , Tamara Qiblawi, Ghazi Balkiz, Ben Wedeman and Luke McGee, CNN Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT) August 6, 2020 The resulting explosion destroyed the entire front facade of the 117 foot structure, killing 168 people. Videos captured the toll of the deadly blast in Beirut that killed dozens of people and injured thousands. Solution for Ammonium nitrate is an explosive and a fertilizer. Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) is a red, bad-smelling gas. Fireworks and ammonium nitrate appear to have been the fuel that ignited a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, experts and videos of the blast suggest. Measured using this method, onlookers estimated the blast was roughly equivalent to 400 to 3,000 tons of TNT, an explosive material that’s also used as a unit to measure the destructiveness of explosions. While it is difficult to precisely calibrate the force of the Beirut explosion, the U.S. military offers a formula that allows bomb technicians a quick way to calculate the power of a blast with just paper and pencil, by converting the weight of a known quantity of explosives to that of TNT. The shipment was eventually abandoned, and its cargo moved into the hangar where it remained, despite Lebanese custom officials requesting its disposal on at least six different occasions, according to The New York Times. The explosion in Beirut is far from the first time something disastrous has happened as a result of ammonium nitrate being stored improperly. This recent tragedy is devastating, and unfortunately, it’s not the first time this dangerous chemical compound has caused widespread damage. A spherical cloud of water vapor formed as the shock wave raced outward, wrapping around the silos, and disappearing into downtown Beirut. A more likely explanation is that the ammonium nitrate in Beirut was not alone inside the warehouse. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive on its own. It is used in fertilisers and explosives, as well as a … When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives. “It’s the biggest explosion in an urban area in decades,” he said. Cell phone videos also show the shockwave and dust cloud rushing through the portside buildings, leaving behind scenes of carnage in the Lebanese capital. Lebanese officials say that thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port in Beirut caused the powerful explosion that devastated the city on Tuesday, killing more than 130 people, injuring at least 4,000 and displacing 300,000 from their homes. By contrast, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of at least 13,000 tons of TNT. It has been the cause of previous industrial accidents, and an ingredient in acts of terrorism as well. White smoke billowing from a fire burning out of control in a warehouse near towering grain silos gave way to a massive explosion of reddish-black smoke. “Ammonium nitrate is derived from the reaction between ammonia and nitric acid. Former justice minister and ex-Internal Security Forces head Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said Thursday that he has testified before Judge Fadi Sawwan that Iran had sent the ammonium nitrate shipment that eventually caused the August 4 catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port. The energy of the detonation wave causes the ammonium nitrate to vaporise - becoming a gas in an instant. Ammonium nitrate, by itself, is relatively harmless. Compared to most combustible materials, ammonium nitrate itself is not exceptionally explosive. Smoke rising after the explosion in Beirut. The blast registered as magnitude 3.3 on the Richter scale, and caused devastation usually associated with major earthquakes. Burning ammonium nitrate in an open field, for instance, isn't likely to result in an explosion, Rae said. Ammonium nitrate stored at site of massive Beirut explosion: Officials At least 70 are dead and more than 3,500 are injured, authorities say. Yes. What Is Ammonium Nitrate, Blamed in the Beirut Explosion? Two days later, the death toll rose to at least 130 people with another 5,000 injured. In the United States, the Espionage Act of 1917 gave the Coast Guard strict regulatory oversight of all port facilities — specifically to prevent large explosions such as the one in Beirut. In ordinary circumstances, ammonium nitrate is fertilizer. The more ammonium nitrate… The huge explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday is thought to have been caused by ammonium nitrate. Following the destruction caused by ammonium nitrate exploding at Beirut's port, there are concerns globally about its storage. But the Beirut explosion was far smaller than the 15,000-ton TNT equivalent of the smallest nuclear weapon ever used in war, which was dropped on Hiroshima 75 years ago this Thursday. Here is the information he has gathered about the explosion in Beirut. Maritime traffic services and documents obtained by CNN describe a shipment of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that was detained in Beirut in … Once a reaction is sparked (by some other means) the ammonium nitrate quickly decomposes into… Though Lebanese authorities have said ammonium nitrate was the culprit in the blast, Lewis notes that in many cases commercial explosives are referred to as just this compound even though they contain additives. The explosion took place when workers used dynamite to break up ammonium nitrate that was caked together, a common practice at the time, according to Prof. Oxley. The monster explosion that destroyed a good bit of Beirut was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of the fertilizer ammonium nitrate – a ghastly amount of one seriously scary chemical. The S.S. Grandcamp—carrying ammonium nitrate, fuel, and ammunition—arrived at the Houston-area port with smoke spewing from its cargo hold. (Seventy-five years later, National Geographic revisits the elusive horror of Hiroshima.). Bags containing ammonium nitrate fertilizer are dispalyed in an agricultural trader in Vieillevigne, France, October 7, 2016. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/08/deadly-history-ammonium-nitrate-explosive-linked-to-beirut-blast.html, math pioneered in the 1940s to infer the atomic bomb’s yield. Lebanon was already dealing with political and financial woes, due in part to the Syrian migration crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Heating also poses a danger: ammonium nitrate decomposes at around 230˚C, and can explode when heated to between 260–300˚C if it’s confined. But when placed under stress of heat and pressure, it acts like a bomb. Nearby stores of … Ammonium nitrate is the ammonium salt derived from nitric acid, a corrosive substance which is toxic when inhaled. But David Chavez, an explosives scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, doubts that scenario. Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) is a red, bad-smelling gas. Videos posted online from the Beirut waterfront on Aug. 4 showed an epic disaster unfold with terrifying speed. The deadly explosion in Beirut, and the reddish plumes of smoke that followed, showed telltale signs of an ammonium nitrate blast, experts said. Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN), prepared from ammonium nitrate and calcium carbonate, is used in some cases as an alternative to ammonium nitrate. If mixed with ingredients like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- And just five years ago, an estimated 800 tons of ammonium nitrate fueled a warehouse explosion that leveled part of a port in the Chinese city of Tianjin, killing 173. A devastating explosion of an enormous amount of ammonium nitrate killed more than 200 people and injured at least 6,000 at the port of Beirut on the … An explosion of ammonium nitrate was responsible for the worst industrial accident in US history in 1947. The chemical compound ammonium nitrate is believed to have been the cause of the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. Ammonium nitrate was also involved in that explosion. Die Explosion des Oppauer Stickstoffwerkes ereignete sich am 21. What detonated the explosive compound remains unclear—but the Beirut blast is not the first time ammonium nitrate has led to calamity. The force of the ammonium nitrate explosion is provided by the rapid generation of gas as it breaks down. Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard . On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. And just five years ago, an estimated 800 tons of ammonium nitrate fueled a warehouse explosion that leveled part of a port in the Chinese city of Tianjin, killing 173. But if added to a fuel source, and subjected to intense stresses like heat and pressure, it can explode. In 2013, ammonium nitrate caused a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. 2,750 tons of the chemical that had been stored in a Beirut warehouse blew up, killing dozens of people and injuring many more In these cases (e.g., an explosion in 1977), the explosions of ammonium nitrate occurred as a result of excessively high temperatures and confinement during processing. That partly depends on the enforcement of safety regulations, which can vary by country. If the name sounds familiar it's because the chemical is notorious. The Biggest Ammonium Nitrate Explosions since 2000. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt across the city. Reconstructing exactly what went wrong in Beirut will be difficult, but Chavez says officials should look for evidence of improper storage, confinement, contamination, lack of ventilation, and potential sources of ignition. The huge change in phase creates a shockwave.”. By comparing the blast’s size against nearby buildings, video of the Beirut incident shows that in the eighth of a second after the explosion occurred, its spherical shockwave grew to roughly 800 feet wide. Two tons of the fertilizer were mixed with diesel fuel to create a bomb placed inside a rental truck that detonated in front of the building. Some internet rumors speculate that because the ammonium nitrate was left to sit in a warehouse for several years, it would have degraded, becoming more volatile and increasingly dangerous over time. Blast calculations suggest that at sea level, an explosion like Beirut’s would require about 1,000 tons of ammonium nitrate. But the chemical has a more nefarious use -- as an explosive. … It also destroyed Texas City in 1947 and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. However, if it is contaminated with impurities, the risk of it detonating increases. Ammonium Nitrate consumption is broken down as 78 percent for fertilizer applications and 22 percent for explosives. Ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and bomb making, is a salt made from ammonium and nitric acid, and it is highly explosive. In 2013, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, caught fire and exploded, killing 15 people. The colossal explosion in Lebanon’s capital this week was apparently caused when more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated. If subjected to fire in such bulk quantities, and in a semi-contained environment like a warehouse, the potential for detonation is strong. It was used by white supremacists to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla. in 1995. The biggest ammonium nitrate explosion that has taken place was the Texas City explosion on April 16, 1947. Videos taken closer to the explosion showed how a wall of compressed air shattered everything in its path as it moved closer, eventually sending the cameras themselves flying. The scale of the damage — from the epicenter of the explosion at the port of Beirut to the windows blown out kilometers (miles) away — resembles other blasts involving the chemical compound commonly used … Since 1916, the chemical has been responsible for at … Using math pioneered in the 1940s to infer the atomic bomb’s yield, experts can analyze videos of a shockwave to get rough estimates of an explosion’s total energy and how much material blew up. This recent tragedy is devastating, and unfortunately, it’s not the first time this dangerous chemical compound has caused widespread damage. The explosion of large storage can happen primarily in two ways. Add enough of the oxidizer to a fire, and it will trigger an explosion. But how can such a chemical cause such a massive and destructive blast? In 1947, an explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed at least 581 people and wounded 3,500 after two cargo ships carrying ammonium nitrate caught fire. Hence, the standard ammonium nitrate explosive mixture is termed ANFO, for an “ammonium nitrate fuel oil” mixture. There are several documented examples of deadly ammonium nitrate fire and explosion incidents in the past, some with large numbers of fatalities like in China in 2015 and in Texas in 1947. Many Americans were introduced to the dangers of ammonium nitrate from the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla. by white supremacists in 1995. In 1921, about 4,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate caused an explosion at a plant in Oppau, Germany, killing more than 500 people The deadliest industrial accident in … “There’s a massive amount of energy given off very quickly,” says Stephen Beaudoin, a chemical engineer also at Purdue University. [screaming] [smaller explosions] [giant blast] [alarms] [alarms] [crying]. The Biggest Ammonium Nitrate Explosions since 2000. Images from Beirut reveal a … This week, a massive explosion involving ammonium nitrate rocked the city of Beirut, sending shock waves through the media.. Seventy-five years later, National Geographic revisits the elusive horror of Hiroshima. An explosion occurred in a warehouse storing some 300 metric tons of ammonium nitrate in the southern French city of Toulouse. It is the main component of explosive used in mining activities all over the world and hasn’t been banned as reported. Other health issues, akin to those seen after 9/11, may emerge given the widespread destruction to buildings and roads. While intended to foil attempted sabotage, the regulations tightly control movements and storage of hazardous materials like ammonium nitrate for reasons of general public safety. Piling up large amounts of ammonium nitrate allows more heat to be contained for longer when a mixture burns. Damaged areas outside of the port of Beirut on Wednesday. The fertilizer arrived in the city more than six years ago aboard a Russian-owned cargo ship that made an unscheduled stop in the city. Lebanese port officials said they made several requests to the courts to have the stockpile removed, but got no response. The site, which belonged to … There are also longer-term effects to consider. Orica's ammonium nitrate plant stores up to four times the amount that was in the Beirut explosion, but the company says it's safe and highly regulated. September 1921 im Werk der Badischen Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik in Oppau, das heute zu Ludwigshafen am Rhein gehört. “As I … “Ammonium nitrate does not degrade with time under normal storage conditions,” he says. While ammonium nitrate can in fact put out a fire, if the chemical itself is contaminated, for example with oil, it becomes highly explosive. Auch die Druckwelle aus Beirut sei laut Medienberichten noch im 200 km entfernten Zypern zu spüren gewesen. Ammonium nitrate appears to be the cause of the huge explosion that has left large parts of Beirut ruined and at least 100 people dead. Given that these back-of-the-envelope calculations come with a wide margin of error, the estimate is consistent with the 2,750 tons that Lebanese officials say was stored by the port. Die Explosion war noch im 300 Kilometer entfernten München zu hören. Lebanese officials say ammonium nitrate, a substance used as fertilizer in agriculture, likely caused the massive explosion in Beirut. The blast filled Beirut’s air with particulate matter, one of the most common forms of air pollution. Ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and bomb making, is a salt made from ammonium and nitric acid, and it is highly explosive. Ammonium nitrate has caused similar explosions in the past – including the Texas City Disaster of 1947, when almost nearly 500 people were killed in an explosion … Ammonium nitrate is used in fertilizer and in the mining industry as an explosive to blast rock and move mounds of earth. It is many times larger than the most powerful conventional airdropped bomb in the U.S. arsenal, which was used in combat for the first time in 2017. "If the pictures are right, this was something meant to be an oxidizer used with other agents," such as explosives used for mining, he says. The ammonium nitrate never made it to Mozambique, the source said, and instead was kept in a container at Beirut's port for over six years before exploding earlier this week. If the name sounds familiar it's because the chemical is notorious. The dangers of ammonium nitrate have been in the spotlight since Aug 4 when 2,750 tonnes of the chemical set off a massive explosion in Beirut's port area. McVeigh left the truck after setting a five-minute fuse to detonate the mixture. What leveled Beirut on Tuesday sounds eerily similar to descriptions of a massive 1947 explosion in Texas City, Texas. Moreover, the decomposition of ammonium nitrate can create byproducts known as nitrogen oxides, which are known to cause respiratory distress. “Plastics, for example, paint, and other organic materials that completely or partially burned—all the building materials that became dust.”, The deadly history of ammonium nitrate, the explosive linked to the Beirut blast, Photograph by Anwar AMRO, AFP via Getty Images. While these alternatives have helped, it is important to note that unintended impurities in the manufacturing process may reduce its stability or facilitate explosion. 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