Fertilizers Meet Fire, With Disastrous Consequences

On April 18th, an explosion at a fertilizer plant killed at least 14 people and destroyed/damaged much of West Texas. The main cause of the explosion still remains unclear. This disaster is a reminder that though fertilizers do help increase crop production, they can be lethal under some conditions. The two fertilizers that dominated the plant were anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, two chemicals that have been known for explosions in the past. Anyhdrous ammonia is injected into the soil that is flammable and highly explosive. The gas must mix with air in high proportions to actually ignite, so it is said to be less dangerous than gasoline or natural gas. Ammonium Nitrate can be mixed with fuel oil to become a powerful explosion – though some say it can even explode by itself in a confined space during a fire.

-Isabella Victoriano

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