Safety and security relating to low capacity storage of AN-based fertilizers

Abstract : Motivated by both the Toulouse explosion, and a series of recent unexpected handling and storage accidents in well-developed countries, the safety issues associated with the storage of fertilizer grades of ammonium nitrate (AN) are considered with a focus on low storage capacity premises. Such facilities are numerous and, in large agricultural countries, include thousands of end-users and hundreds of small distributors. The strong oxidative (sometimes explosive) properties of products containing significant amounts of AN have led to a long history of major accidents including mass explosions in large storage units and pre 1950s, to mass explosions in ships. A major breakthrough in safety was achieved in the 1950s, with the promotion - amongst other improvements - of better anti-caking agents. Although modem AN fertilizers complying with current standards are not considered as explosive material per se, the latent risk of accidental detonation under specific conditions remains a real issue, and from a scientific point of view, cannot be completely ruled out-as dramatically demonstrated by the Toulouse disaster in France. The new insight provided here is derived from: (1) a literature review on hazardous properties of AN and AN-based fertilizers; (2) a review of accidents focusing more particularly on the reporting of recent new cases involving relatively small quantities of previously 'thought safe' products; (3) an examination of both the relevant regulatory framework and the level of hazard control achieved; (4) appropriate discussions of the economical, technical and organizational factors that could lead to some underestimation of the risk compared to large scale storage facilities. In terms of research requirements, the complex potential scenario 'mass explosion following a fire' requires further attention, as does the role and properties of molten ammonium nitrate, which could be the precursor for such an event to occur. Beyond research needs, reinforced legislative control by the authorities and further promotion of safe storage practices must be encouraged by the industry for end-users particularly. Such users have inherently the highest potential for undesirable situations, due both to the nature of their activities and also a possible lack of awareness of the real danger.
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Guy Marlair, Marie-Astrid Kordek. Safety and security relating to low capacity storage of AN-based fertilizers. Journal of Hazardous Materials, Elsevier, 2005, 123 (1-3), pp.13-28. ⟨10.1016/j.jhazmat.2005.03.028⟩. ⟨ineris-00962946⟩

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