In 2013, an ammonium nitrate storage facility in West, Texas, caught fire and exploded, destroying most of the facility. The blast left a crater nearly 100 feet (30 meters) across and 10 feet (3 meters) deep and killed 15 people. Damage was estimated at $250 million.
Shortly after the disaster, the NFPA Technical Committee on Hazardous Chemicals, which is responsible for NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, formed a task group to examine requirements for existing facilities that handle or store ammonium nitrate. As NFPA 400 was then written, says Nancy Pearce, senior fire protection engineer at NFPA, its requirements focused primarily on new facilities.
“The need to address existing facilities was acute,” she says, particularly since the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that there are 13,000 facilities similar to the West facility throughout the U.S.
As a result of the task group’s work, the Hazardous Materials Committee made a number of changes to the ammonium nitrate requirements in Chapter 11, Ammonium Nitrate Solids and Liquids, of the 2016 edition of NFPA 400. For more information on these changes, read Pearce’s article “Safer Storage” in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.
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