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Beirut explosion: Where else is ammonium nitrate stored?

Ammonium nitrate production in France

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Ammonium nitrate production in France

Following the destruction caused by ammonium nitrate that exploded in the port of Beirut, there are global concerns about storage.

The chemical is widely used all over the world, as a fertilizer or for explosives in mining.

But there are strict rules about where it can be kept and for how long.

And its location is often kept secret because of its potential to make bombs.


Nearly 740 tons were stored in 37 containers 700 m (half a mile) from a residential area about 20 km outside Chennai, one of India̵

7;s largest cities, for five years while authorities in the southern state of Tamil Nadu fought a legal battle against a company that had imported it. from South Korea in 2015 and claimed that it was for agricultural purposes.

The consignment refused customs clearance.

And the investigation revealed that the company had:

  • acquired the substance under an invalid license
  • has sold it to “unidentified individuals” and companies that have previously been involved in mining

A small amount was deposited after being damaged by floods in 2015.

And the remaining 697 tonnes have now been auctioned and transported to the neighboring state of Telangana.

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Beirut port after the explosion


The Attorney General of war-torn Yemen has ordered an investigation of media reports claiming that more than 100 containers of ammonium nitrate are kept in the southern port of Aden.

They say the chemical was imported three years ago and seized by Saudi-led forces that supported the UN-recognized government.

Aden Governor Tariq Salam said: “The forces deployed in this port are responsible for storing this dangerous cargo, which is estimated to contain 4,900 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 freight containers.”

But the government’s Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation said the containers were actually used to store “organic urea, used as agricultural fertilizer.”

“They are neither explosive nor radioactive materials,” it was said.

“And it is not forbidden to handle or store them.”


The Iraqi government has ordered an immediate inspection of hazardous materials at ports and airports and found that ammonium nitrate had been stored at Baghdad International Airport.

“The Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s Technical Directorate … certainly transported very dangerous materials from the air traffic section at the airport in Baghdad … to their destination, the warehouses of the Military Technology Directorate,” a military official tweeted on August 9.


Even before the explosion in Beirut, people in Newcastle, New South Wales, asked for a large layer of ammonium nitrate in a layer 3 km from the city center to be moved or reduced.

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A shipment of ammonium nitrate seized by Indonesian customs in 2016

But Orica, a company that supplies explosives to the mining industry, said it was stored safely in areas that were “fire-resistant and built exclusively from non-flammable materials.”

And South Australia’s on-site security guard dog, SafeWork SA, said ammonium nitrate was stored at 170 heavily regulated and monitored sites across the region.

British ports

An investigation has been launched into the storage of ammonium nitrate in a major port in Lincolnshire, Immingham, as well as elsewhere in the Humber region.

The Associated British Ports (ABP), which operates the sites, said British ports must comply with strict regulations and ensure that the substance is stored and handled safely.

Meanwhile, a company based in the port of Portsmouth, Portico, has withdrawn an application for storage of ammonium nitrate and said that the substance would not go through the website.

Although the announcement came shortly after the Beirut explosion, the company said it was only for business reasons.

International Head of Freight Handling, Richard Brough, said that ammonium nitrate “is regulated because it is a registered hazardous substance”.

“On its own, it is a relatively safe substance,” he said.

“But where it becomes a problem is when it is polluted, for example with oil.”

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