444771 Investigation Findings and Lessons Learned in the West Fertilizer Explosion

Monday, April 11, 2016: 4:00 PM
360 (George R. Brown )
Scott Davis, GexCon US Inc., Bethesda, MD

On April 17, 2013, an explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas. The explosion at West Fertilizer resulted from an intense fire in the seed and storage area of the facility that led to the detonation of approximately 20-30 tons of ammonium nitrate stored inside a wooden receiving bin.  The explosion occurred while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility and at least fifteen people were killed, more than 200 were injured, and numerous buildings were damaged or destroyed. This paper presents the results our investigation into the cause and origin of the explosion event, which included: (1) early video footage which showed room where the initial fire originates; and (2) applying advanced blast techniques to determine the quantity of ammonium nitrate that likely detonated during the blast.  These techniques included near field blast effects (e.g., the resulting crater left by the blast) as well as the far-field blast damage resulting in the neighboring community.

In addition, the paper will also outline the current local, state and federal regulations regarding the storage and use of reactive chemicals such as ammonium nitrate and discussion some key lesson learned during the event.

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