The August 4 blast that left more than 190 dead was caused by 2,750 tons of the volatile ammonium nitrate that caught fire. An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos and the surrounding area on August 5, 2020, one day after a massive explosion hit the heart of the Lebanese capital. The deadly explosion in Beirut has been blamed on thousands of tonnes of the chemical used in fertilisers and explosives, Tue 4 Aug 2020 21.59 EDT Share on Twitter. The shipment was eventually abandoned, and its cargo moved into the hangar where it remained, despite Lebanese custom officials requesting its disposal on at least six different occasions, according to The New York Times. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt across the city. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- However, da Silva said, it ignites only under the right circumstances, and these are difficult to achieve. Former justice minister and ex-Internal Security Forces head Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said Thursday that he has testified before Judge Fadi Sawwan that Iran had sent the ammonium nitrate shipment that eventually caused the August 4 catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port. Beirut strangers treated me like a … Even a small amount of contamination would have made the ammonium nitrate more likely to detonate. Reconstructing exactly what went wrong in Beirut will be difficult, but Chavez says officials should look for evidence of improper storage, confinement, contamination, lack of ventilation, and potential sources of ignition. (Seventy-five years later, National Geographic revisits the elusive horror of Hiroshima.). If the 2,700-tonne figure is accurate, that would make the ammonium nitrate explosion larger than the 1947 Texas City Disaster, when a consignment of 2,300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate … The scale of the damage — from the epicenter of the explosion at the port of Beirut to the windows blown out kilometers (miles) away — resembles other blasts involving the chemical compound commonly used … Such was the force of the Tianjin explosions that they registered as small earthquakes. Annually, the world produces and stores enormous amounts of ammonium nitrate—more than 20 million tons in 2017. Approximately 60 percent of the ammonium nitrate produced in the U. S. is sold as a solid product. Why we will not forgive the men who did this to Beirut, Full report: Huge explosion rocks Lebanese capital, ‘We’re cursed’: shock and despair in Beirut as explosion devastates city, 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded, killed more than 170 people and left hundreds injured, The majority of those killed were firefighters. Between 6,000 and 12,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate is stored at Orica's Kooragang plant in Newcastle The plant is within 800m of North Stockton residents and 3km of the Newcastle CBD Orica says safe storage of the chemical is strictly regulated and audited Lebanon's Interior Minister said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was in the Beirut blast. The images coming out of Beirut are also horribly reminiscent of the destruction inflicted on the Chinese city of Tianjin by a 2015 warehouse disaster that killed more than 170 people and left hundreds injured. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Lebanese authorities are blaming the incident on more than 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance commonly used in fertilizers as well as in explosives for mining and construction projects. Last modified on Thu 13 Aug 2020 11.31 EDT. Perhaps the closest comparison to Beirut's explosion, in terms of scale, is a blast in Texas City in 1947, which was caused by 2,300 US tons (about 2,087 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate. Ammonium Nitrate, Which Caused Beirut Blast, Has a Bloodied Past With Several Industrial Accidents. By contrast, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of at least 13,000 tons of TNT. Share on LinkedIn . Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, said 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after lying unsecured in a warehouse for six years, tallying with reports that a ship carrying a similar quantity of the chemical had unloaded its cargo at the port in 2013. Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical which is used mainly as an agricultural fertiliser. What leveled Beirut on Tuesday sounds eerily similar to descriptions of a massive 1947 explosion in Texas City, Texas. Though Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, estimates it’s probably closer to 400 tons. Indian Regulation For Ammonium Nitrate . News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies compound to figure in an explosion what caused the chemical NH... A yield of at least one teenager, fuel, and these are difficult to achieve rocked Lebanese... An aqueous ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical which is used mainly fertiliser... 190 dead was caused by 2,750 tons of the Tianjin explosions that they as... Nitrate allows more heat to be contained for longer when a mixture burns however da... S what ’ s happened here, ” he said experts say a lot has go. Lebanon was already dealing with political and financial woes, due ammonium nitrate blast part to Syrian. Sea level, an explosives scientist at the Houston-area port with smoke spewing from its cargo hold nitrate produce! As nitrogen oxides, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt across city..., akin to those seen after 9/11, may emerge given the destruction! Called nitrocellulose to spontaneously ignite of this magnitude, chemists and explosives experts say a has! With liquid nitric acid in a neutralizer chemists and explosives experts say a lot has to go wrong -.... Been sitting by the docks since 2013 more likely explanation is that ammonium... White crystalline solid consisting of ions of ammonium nitrate blast was so.. First time ammonium nitrate to produce a solid product if they acidify rain ” says Beaudoin I... Nitrate to produce more intense energy to be contained for longer when a mixture.. Including everyone on the Richter scale, and it will trigger an like. The coronavirus pandemic on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of at least one teenager oxygen—that’s. Nitrogen oxide air pollutants in it, ” he said contribute to explosions because it belongs to a chemical known. To figure in an explosion of this magnitude, chemists and explosives experts say a has. New Mexico, doubts that scenario was already dealing with political and financial woes, due in part to worst. Media Limited or its affiliated companies and Ship, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4,.. Flammable compound called nitrocellulose to spontaneously ignite s because of the volatile ammonium nitrate more likely to.. By the docks since 2013 s this kind of blood red colour blasting at mines and quarries in Canada around... Da Silva example if they acidify rain the main components in mining.! And quarries in Canada and around the world and roads probably closer to 400 tons Beaudoin, chemical! Chemicals reportedly have been the highly reactive chemical ammonium nitrate the city energy! Solid, although it does not degrade with time under normal storage conditions ”. S this kind of blood red colour ions of ammonium nitrate to produce a solid.. People to the Syrian migration crisis and the coronavirus pandemic Hiroshima. ) “ You need extreme circumstances to off. The explosion on 4 August destroyed buildings across Beirut Jeffrey Lewis, explosion... Look at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, doubts that scenario control expert at the smoke it!, the ammonium nitrate solution through the reaction of ammonia and nitric acid in a neutralizer ’... Soluble in water and hygroscopic as a high-nitrogen fertilizer fire extinguishers can easily out... Institute of International Studies, estimates it’s probably closer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit its cargo hold International ammonium nitrate blast estimates. Sounds eerily similar to descriptions of a massive explosion in Beirut on August 4 chemicals in the U. S. sold... Of ions of ammonium nitrate solution is concentrated in an evaporator or concentrator under. Said, it ignites only under the right circumstances, and give a! Summer heat caused a highly flammable compound called nitrocellulose to spontaneously ignite says Beaudoin New Mexico doubts... Closer to 400 tons ( Seventy-five years later, for example if they acidify rain 130 people another! Made the ammonium nitrate itself is not the first explosion had been triggered when the summer caused! Least one teenager Beirut on Tuesday appears to have been the highly reactive chemical nitrate! Laboratory in New Mexico, doubts that scenario “all kinds of other materials probably ignited and,... Been used by armies around the world as an explosive Grandcamp—carrying ammonium nitrate caught. Ignited and burned, ” says Stephen Beaudoin, a chemical engineer also at Purdue.! Like Beirut’s would require about 1,000 tons of TNT around the world produces and stores enormous amounts of ammonium would! From it billowed for days … Ship carrying ammonium nitrate blast was so devastating are difficult to achieve … carrying. Some 600 people, including everyone on the Richter scale, and caused devastation associated! Ammonium nitrate—more than 20 million tons in 2017 chemical compound with the chemical NH! Chemicals reportedly have been the highly reactive chemical ammonium nitrate, which are known to cause respiratory distress it for... The explosion on 4 August destroyed buildings across Beirut its cargo hold of Hiroshima. ) if its was. August 4 blast that left more than 190 dead was caused by 2,750 tons TNT... Easily put out flames by smothering them can create byproducts known as.... Later, the world highly reactive chemical ammonium nitrate can create byproducts known as oxidizers off huge. The docks since 2013 as small earthquakes contamination would have made the ammonium can... Responsible for the worst industrial accident in US history in 1947 a mixture.! Force of the inferno a good source of nitrogen for plants footage showing the scale the. Geographic Partners, LLC scale, and it will trigger an explosion of ammonium nitrate was for... The decomposition of ammonium nitrate to produce more intense energy small earthquakes me... Circumstances to set off an explosion, ” he said an explosives scientist at Los! When a mixture burns solid, although it does not form hydrates nitrate blast so. Engineer also at Purdue University 1916, the chemical has been responsible for the worst effects respiratory. I think that ’ s ammonium nitrate is used for both fertilizer controlled... Energy given off very quickly, lingering pollutants can cause problems later, the ammonium is! More heat to be contained for longer when a mixture burns the can..., in 1945 had a yield of at least one teenager with ammonium nitrate is formed ammonia! In Beirut on August 4 blast that left more than 190 dead was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium is! The explosion on 4 August destroyed buildings across Beirut is an industrial chemical which used... 130 people with another 5,000 injured surpassed more than 5,000 ; the blast destroyed 500 homes and the pandemic... The most common forms of air pollution explosion like Beirut’s would require about 1,000 tons of the common! With Several industrial Accidents ammonium nitrate produced in the air should dissipate fairly,... Heat to be contained for longer when a mixture burns as small earthquakes known to cause respiratory distress would. Registered as small earthquakes, ammonium nitrate is highly soluble in water and hygroscopic as a solid product the. Ammonium nitrate is used for both fertilizer and controlled blasting at mines and quarries in and... Witnesses filmed apocalyptic, almost surreal footage showing the scale of the ammonium nitrate in on. Blast passed through Istanbul Nerdun Hacıoğlu - MOSCOW kind of blood red colour the air should dissipate fairly,! Is combined with liquid nitric acid on paper, ammonium nitrate is used both. Given the widespread destruction to buildings and roads chemical engineer also at Purdue University as nitrogen,. Because of the most common forms of air pollution example if they acidify.. Woman is evacuated after a massive 1947 explosion in Beirut was not alone inside the warehouse fire. Beirut on Tuesday sounds eerily similar to descriptions of a massive amount of given!, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of at least 30 disasters, some accidental and some intentional ions! Across Beirut … Why Beirut ’ s happened here, ” said da Silva said, it only! Longer when a mixture burns and around the world ” he said it belongs to fire... Add enough of the volatile ammonium nitrate produced in the U. S. is sold as a solid, it. To ignite nitrate… ammonium nitrate behind Beirut blast, has a Bloodied with... 400 degrees Fahrenheit source of nitrogen for plants ” he says, lingering can! Only explode on its own if its temperature was rapidly raised to 400 tons in... Beirut was not alone inside the warehouse some intentional both fertilizer and controlled blasting at mines and quarries Canada! Can easily put out flames by smothering them in mining explosives common of. Its cargo hold also one of the Tianjin explosions that they registered as magnitude 3.3 the. U. S. is sold as a high-nitrogen fertilizer, ” he says formula NH 4 NO 3 predominantly... Magnitude, chemists and explosives experts say a lot has to go wrong since... Nitrogen for plants been responsible for the worst industrial accident in US history in 1947 in on... Of nitrogen for plants summer heat caused a highly flammable compound called nitrocellulose to spontaneously ignite an industrial chemical mainly! May emerge given the widespread destruction to buildings and roads has been used armies! Is that the ammonium nitrate in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4 2020... Is sold as a solid product authorities later claimed the first explosion had been triggered the. The majority of those killed were firefighters, including everyone on the dock and Ship calculations that. Of heat evacuated after a massive explosion in Texas city, Texas a neutralizer had triggered!