October 29, 2020

NFPA Develops Ammonium Nitrate Safety Fact Sheet

A new fact sheet published by NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, provides information about ammonium nitrate safety for business owners and facility managers. NFPA developed the fact sheet following the August explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed at least 200 people, injured thousands, and left approximately 300,000 homeless. The blast occurred when a large amount of ammonium nitrate that was improperly stored at the port of the city exploded. According to NFPA, pure ammonium nitrate poses few safety hazards when stored properly but can present a “significant explosive threat” under certain conditions.

“Exposure to elements such as fire or heat can start the process of destabilizing ammonium nitrate, making it self-reactive and prone to releasing flammable and ignitable gases,” the association explains.

NFPA’s new fact sheet covers topics such as increasing facility protection, detection and notification systems, and emergency response issues. The document is available in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

The explosion in Beirut prompted the chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to issue a statement urging agencies and others to revisit lessons learned about the storage and handling of ammonium nitrate since the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas, in April 2013. At least 40 tons of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate were present at the facility when it exploded more than seven years ago. The blast killed 12 emergency responders and three members of the public, caused more than 260 injuries, destroyed the storage facility, and damaged more than 150 additional buildings.