Ammonia Explosion and The West Fertilizer Company Essay

Ammonia Explosion and The West Fertilizer Company Essay

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West, Texas is a town located in McLennan County in the central part of Texas. It has a population of around 2,800 people. During the evening of Wednesday the 17th April of 2013 a massive explosion occurred in the small town. The West Fertilizer Company; which is owned by Adair Grain Inc. which had stockpiles of anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate amongst other agricultural items; was the center and cause of the blast. It is not the first time that an explosion such as this has happened in the state of Texas; in 1947 in Texas city, Texas an explosion that caused nearly 600 deaths had ammonia as a key part in the blast (Jonsson, 2013).
Anhydrous ammonia is stored as a liquid in pressurized tanks and after it has been sold to local farmers, they use it by injecting it directly into their soil where it then turns into a gas. It has a melting point of around -108 degrees Fahrenheit and an explosive range between a Lower explosive limit (LEL) of 15% and an Upper explosive limit (UEL) of 28% when mixed in air. Ammonium nitrate is typical found and used in its prill form where it is spread across the fields as a fertilizer. Ammonium Nitrate does not typical, under normal circumstances, pose an explosive hazard alone by itself but when combined with some sort of fuel it will act as an oxidizer during that process, literally adding fuel to the fire. “Both of these common fertilizers can become explosive under the right conditions.” (Fernandez & Schwartz, 2013)
The West Fertilizer Company began its operation in the small town that it took its name sake from in 1962. It was licensed, permitted and inspected by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commissi...


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...andez, M., & Schwartz, J. (2013, April 18). Huge blast at Texas fertilizer plant. New York Times.
Fernandez, M., & Schwartz, J. (2013, April 18). Plant explosion tears at the heart of a Texas Town. New York Times.
Fink, J. (2013). West Fertilizer plant cited for saftey lapses. Dallas: CBS DFW.
Formby, B., & Wilkins, E. (2013, August 2). Obama, House target chemical regulation. The Dallas Morning News.
Gebrekidan, S., & Schneyer, J. (2013, May 3). Exclusive: At Texas fertilizer plant, a history of theft, tampering. Reuters.
Gillam, C. M. (2013, May 7). Ammonium nitrate stores exploded at Texas plant: state agency. Reuters.
Jonsson, P. (2013). Why did West, Texas build homes and schools next to a "time bomb"? Christian Science Monitor.
Schneyer, J., McNeill, R., & Roberts, J. (2013, April 20). Texas Fertilizer company didnt heed disclosure rules before blast. Reuters.

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