A blast at Beirut (the capital of Lebanon) has killed at least 100 people and injured around 4,000 with an unknown number feared trapped under rubble. It was caused by over 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in storage for over six years.
What is ammonium nitrate?
- A common chemical ingredient of agricultural fertilizers, the nitrogen rich compound is also the main component of the explosive composition known as ANFO — ammonium nitrate fuel oil.
- In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water. It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
Rules in India about Ammonium nitrate
- In India, The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884, define ammonium nitrate as the “compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate by weight including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels but excluding emulsion or slurry explosives and non explosives emulsion matrix and fertilizers from which the ammonium nitrate cannot be separated”.
- The manufacture, conversion, bagging, import, export, transport, possession for sale or use of ammonium nitrate is covered under The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012. The rules also make storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas illegal in India.
- For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an Industrial license is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1951. A license under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 is also required for any activity related to ammonium nitrate.