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View Diary: Just how bad was the safety equipment at Texas fertilizer plant? (136 comments)

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  •  You are exactly right. Every death was preventable (17+ / 0-)
    Complacency, negligence and lack of oversight killed these people and I hope someone is held criminally accountable... but I am not going to hold my breath.
    All anhydrous ammonia plants are potential bombs waiting to go off because the primary raw material used to produce the stuff is natural  gas.  There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the lack of a fire suppression system when your main raw material is methane.
    Producing ammonia requires five major steps to convert air, water, and natural gas into anhydrous ammonia. These are raw materials preparation, hydrogen generation, process gas purification, ammonia synthesis, and refrigeration.  (From the Canadian Fertilizers, Ltd. website.)
    An out of control fire would cause a natural gas explosion which in turn would cause explosion of anhydrous stored on site.  In a least one previous report the company had at some point in the past had 50,000 pounds of anhydrous stored on site. Haven't seen a report of how much was estimated to be on site at the time of the explosion.

    "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

    by Involuntary Exile on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 03:44:12 PM PDT

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    •  This wasn't a production plant (0+ / 0-)

      It was a storage and distribution center.

      Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

      by Just Bob on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 04:29:55 PM PDT

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    •  vent and flare Methane (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oklacoma dem

      it's a light gas, so it drifts away, and it's rarely in an explosive mix ratio, without careful work.

      i'd bet the AN caught on fire and then lit up the ammonia.

      •  sounds reasonable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Involuntary Exile, Bulldozer

        NH3 explosive limits are 15-25% in air, autoignition temperature is 1200F, and during the fire, a witness said he heard some kind of gas start to vent. Think of a huge volume of NH3 venting and mixing with air until it hits the explosive limits and the fire sets it off.

        Kabooooom

      •  Have you seen the process? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Silvia Nightshade, Penny GC

        Here's the process:

        Raw Materials Preparation: to begin the process, air is filtered and compressed, water is clarified and demineralized, and natural gas is heated and desulfurized.
        Hydrogen Generation: steam and natural gas are fed into a Primary Reformer, a reactor furnace containing several hundred alloy tubes filled with catalyst. The catalyst promotes the chemical reaction of the mixture. The products of this reaction – hydrogen, carbon oxides, and un-reacted steam and methane – are directed to a Secondary Reformer, where compressed air is added to produce what’s called process gas.

        Process Gas Purification: the process gas next flows through high- and low-temperature Shift Converters, which convert the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. CO2 is removed from the process gas; a portion of it is recovered for use in the production of urea.

        The remaining purified process gas, a 3-to-1 mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen called synthesis gas, is used to produce ammonia.

        Ammonia Synthesis: the synthesis gas is compressed and circulated through an Ammonia Converter, where each pass through the synthesis catalyst converts a portion of the gas to ammonia.

        Refrigeration: condensed by refrigeration, ammonia is then removed from the synthesis gas. The product is withdrawn in a “warm” stream at 13° C (used for urea production) and as a “cold” liquid at minus 33° C (sent to storage).

        The anhydrous and the methane used to create it are stored under pressure.  Any time you're primary raw material is methane and you have no fire suppression system, as was the case in West, you are courting disaster.

        "Some folks rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen." - Woody Guthrie

        by Involuntary Exile on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 05:24:36 PM PDT

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        •  i suspect the ammonia was the issue. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bulldozer, Silvia Nightshade

          a fire starts somewhere, it starts burning the ammonia tank heats, begins venting, but the tank splits and then blows as the boiling ammonia spreads out and goes.

          but who knows, the engineers will figure out what the explosion was based upon signature, blast pattern and
          heat signature.

          the picture i saw was a rich orange fire,  usually methane burns clear blue.

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