Thursday 6 August 2020

Beirut Explosion: What Is Ammonium Nitrate, the Chemical That Exploded

What is Ammonium Nitrate? Ammonium Nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula NH₄NO₃. It is a white crystalline solid consisting of ions of ammonium and nitrate. It is certainly highly soluble in water and hygroscopic (tending to absorb moisture from the air) as a solid, although it does not form hydrates. It is predominantly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. It’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers.Global production of it was estimated at 21.6 million tonnes in 2017.

Ammonium Nitrate is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge.

Ammonium nitrate does not burn on its own. Instead, the chemical acts as a source of oxygen that can accelerate the combustion (burning) of other materials.

Ammonium Nitrate is the Chemical That Exploded in Beirut. The unfortunate blast injured thousands and killed at least 78 people. The Lebanese capital Beirut was rocked on Tuesday evening local time by an explosion that has killed at least 78 people and injured thousands more.

The country’s prime minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near the city’s cargo port. There is video footage that appears to show a fire burning nearby before the blast. The fire may have set off a greater explosion. It is currently not known for sure what caused the explosion in Beirut.

Read more details about the explosion here:

Many people have tried to analyse what happened in the Beirut Explosion. About 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in the Beirut port warehouse that exploded Tuesday, devastating large parts of the Lebanese capital.

The devastating explosion at the port in Beirut happened on the evening of Aug. 4. The compound itself typically doesn’t detonate on its own and requires another ignition source. That likely came from a fire that engulfed what initially appeared to be fireworks that were stored at the port.

Here are some chemistry explanations of Ammonium Nitrate:

1 comment:

  1. An interesting news article here:

    Beirut explosion: Scientists explain what may have caused the blasts

    Early reports seem to say fireworks and ammonium nitrate appear to have been the fuel that ignited the blast, but investigators say it’s still unclear what exactly caused it.

    A fire may have started in a fireworks warehouse in Beirut’s port area of the city.

    A large explosion happened. It blasted through the city, creating a giant mushroom cloud with a force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ.

    Ammonium nitrate is certainly an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilizers and explosives. It’s considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and stored properly but it is very extremely dangerous if contaminated, mixed with fuel or stored unsafely.

    "In Texas in 1947, a cigarette started a fire aboard a ship carrying around 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate. The chemical exploded and caused a chain reaction when a nearby ship, also carrying the compound, exploded, setting off fires at chemical tanks and oil refineries near the post. Around 581 people were killed."

    Read more about it here: