Ammonia Plant Explosion

Ammonia Plant ExplosionThe catastrophic outcome that an ammonia plant explosion can produce will unavoidably impact those in and around the site. While the injuries can vary in severity, there are regulations and safety measures to employ in order to maximize the safety and proper handling of the dangerous chemical. No matter what the industry, there must be an awareness of the material’s properties, its reactions, and the harmful effects. In the case of an ammonia plant explosion those directly affected physically and/or psychologically have legal rights they should seek counsel to pursue.

Commonly used throughout the United States, ammonia (NH3) is a strong colorless gas. In its natural state this Anhydrous, or water free chemical is light with a potent odor. While not extremely flammable, it is easily broken down when coming in contact with water and can potentially blow up when its temperature increases. When mixed with other compounds it is capable of creating nitrogen containing substances such as nitric acid. Both NH3 and these nitrogen blends are utilized in a wide variety of industries including refrigeration, medical products, and agriculture. Over 80% of the approximately 100 million metric tons produced can be found in the manufacturing of fertilizer and other agricultural materials.

The need for intense production temperatures and high pressure storage places fertilizer production at the forefront of potential sources for an ammonia plant explosion. When stored in specifically designed tanks the chemical can leak, resulting in a deadly white chemical cloud. If the temperature surrounding the storage unit rises it will increase the interior temperature as well. This warm-up will amplify the internal pressure, leading to these dangerous leaks and other tank malfunctions. According to OSHA and EPA regulations, there must be a risk management plan, exposure limitations, emergency response strategy, and gas monitoring equipment in place to minimize the danger the chemical can pose on employees and nearby citizens. OSHA sets forth an exposure limit of 25 ppm during an 8-hour span of time.

Those entering employment that utilizes such dangerous materials must be provided with full disclosure of the risks involved and potential of an ammonia plant explosion. An awareness of the possible hazards as well as full training on proper safety measures will help to decrease the physical impact such a disaster can have on those involved. This particular chemical is corrosive in nature and has a wide range of consequences depending upon the volume, time frame, and avenue of exposure.

Upon entering the body the chemical quickly responds to water, harming cells along the way. When minimal concentration is involved the effects may be in the form of respiratory inflammation and coughing. A vapor concentration level of 134 ppm can cause minor irritation to the throat and nose and 400 ppm leads to more severe throat pain. When higher quantities are involved due to accidents such as an ammonia plant explosion the victim may immediately experience burning in the nose, throat, and eyes which can progress to more serious results including lung injury, blindness, and even death. Vapor levels of 1700 ppm may cause serious harm to the lungs and respiratory tract whereas 5,000 can be fatal almost immediately.