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The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas could prove a long-term benefit to some companies in the...

The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas could prove a long-term benefit to some companies in the sector, since it could slow the building up of new nitrogen fertilizer capacity in the U.S. and provide a competitive boost to entrenched producers such as CF Industries (CF +3%), Potash (POT +0.8%) and Agrium (AGU +1.1%), Citigroup says.
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  • baseballman24
    , contributor
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    Still like MOS the best as it will be bought out.
    18 Apr 2013, 04:31 PM Reply Like
  • Tricky
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    I'm long POT but this certainly isn't the way I like it to increase in price :-(
    18 Apr 2013, 06:24 PM Reply Like
  • just dan
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    From what I read, the West Fertilizer plant did not produce ammonia in house ,but obtained it to produce ammonium nitrate.
    18 Apr 2013, 07:53 PM Reply Like
  • Chris Damas
    , contributor
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    It sounds like the ammonia tanks were allowed to get so hot they exploded. I didn't think ammonia could explode like that but I guess it can. I thought it was stored nitrate that maybe had decomposed or was contaminated and caught fire.
    Ammonium nitrate requires an industrial plant that can store and react nitric acid with ammonia, prilling towers. This certainly was not such a plant. The question may be, how did the fire get started?

     

    This is an extremely unfortunate accident due to the site of the plant but this operation was one of many many wholesale ammonia dispensing operations across the nations farmlands. It has little to do with the zoning and permitting of an industrial plant.

     

    CF had an accident at one of their NH3 hubs a few years ago with a fatality. It is really far fetched to think this isolated incident would translate into delays in permitting new ammonia plants which if built would help reduce the price of this very expensive fertilizer - something every farmer in the nation would want.

     

    Having said that, the nitrogen stocks (CF, RNF, AGU) had a decent rally today and could go higher because they have been so beat up. Weaker Q1 versus year ago earnings have probably been discounted and then some.
    18 Apr 2013, 08:41 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Bryant
    , contributor
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    (CF) is by far the best.
    18 Apr 2013, 09:50 PM Reply Like
  • vallies
    , contributor
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    Getting a nice pullback too. Boy, if you can get this one in the 150.00 to 130.00 range, wow.
    18 Apr 2013, 11:13 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Bryant
    , contributor
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    Plus, (CF) dominants the world market for nitrogen fertilizer. (POT) is a potash miner.
    19 Apr 2013, 12:47 PM Reply Like
  • lou.astbury@gmail.com
    , contributor
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    They had ammonia stored there but I don't know if it was refrigerated storage or pressurized storage. I suppose a heated pressurized tanks could explode. The fire might have started in a wooden warehouse storing ammonium nitrate or if maybe petroleum was also stored there. It seems most of the damage and loss of life was caused by the explosion rather than from any release of anhydrous ammonia gas.
    19 Apr 2013, 03:49 AM Reply Like
  • Michael Bryant
    , contributor
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    Nitrate mixed with water forms nitric acid + a lot of heat. If you don't cool the nitric acid quickly (using an ice bath constantly refilled with ice in the lab), then the heat will rapidly cause gas to expand. The increased pressure will cause an explosion. That happened to my professor when he was a graduate student and didn't fill the ice bath fast enough. He got third-degree burns.
    19 Apr 2013, 12:54 PM Reply Like
  • Chris Damas
    , contributor
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    I originally leaned towards ammonium nitrate as the causal agent due to the force of the explosion and the fire ball, although it is apparent the West, Texas facility is an ammonia dispensing operation and not a production facility - look at the Google Earth and you can see they have no capability to make nitrates or nitric acid.

     

    Normally, anhydrous ammonia isn't flammable - it's pungent and can be toxic but doesn't blow up. I'm an ex chemist by the way.

     

    I read the MSDS's (Material Safety Data Sheets) for anhydrous ammonia and the literature for examples of such an explosion from anhydrous alone - very few. It seemed highly unlikely it would ignite. However, it appears it is rare but possible with a 15%-26% concentration in air, at 1274 F, it autoignites.

     

    Then I saw this physics professor on CBS saying the firefighters themselves could have inadvertently ignited the ammonia/air mixture with water from their hoses. http://cbsn.ws/13wBdId

     

    I personally wouldn't have said that without forensic information - I think it is amazing they were brave enough to try to douse the flames and the EMS managed to evacuate the nursing home in the 20-30 minutes between the fire and the explosion. A number of these brave people have lost their lives.

     

    The MSDS says AA can ignite. If the fire was uncontrolled and cooked the ammonia tanks unabated, eventually they could blow as well as ignite. After all, NH3 isn't that much different from CH4 (methane), with three hydrogen atoms waiting for O2 to oxidize.

     

    I subscribe to hazardous materials and fire&safety newsletters. I think the fire volunteers would have known what they could spray on one of the very few haz material sites in their own town. THe MSDS says to use water to extinguish not only the fire but also to absorb the anhydrous gas because it is hydroscopic.

     

    Everyone is talking about Boston, but the loss of life in Texas is equally bad. How did the fire start?
    19 Apr 2013, 01:46 PM Reply Like
  • Chris Damas
    , contributor
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    This is from an MSDS for ammonia :

     

    High airborne concentrations of ammonia can be ignited
    and pose a significant fire and explosion hazard, especially in a confined space. Ammonia gas can decompose at high temperatures
    forming very flammable hydrogen and toxic nitrogen dioxide.
    19 Apr 2013, 02:05 PM Reply Like
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