“Yes, big badda-boom…”
Now, here’s my question: What was the fuel for this ammonium nitrate explosion? Ammonium nitrate is an oxidizer. It needs a fuel to oxidize – that’s the reason for adding diesel fuel to ammonium nitrate in blasting operations at mines (mines here in Wyoming regularly use ANFO that they pump down into drill holes to expose more and more of a coal face in open-pit mining operations).
Looking at the situation there, I wonder if dust from the grain elevators would get into the stored ammonium nitrate and provide the fuel necessary. In some fire reviews, investigators have said that soot and smoke from a fire surrounding ammonium nitrate was the fuel which was accelerated by the ammonium nitrate.
My understanding is that the ammonium nitrate alone can decompose under high heat and detonate without the addition of fuel. ANFO is just predictable and user-friendly.
This is a pretty good example of why quantity-distance rules are used for explosive storage. That was waaay too much boomy stuff waaay to close to inhabited buildings.
Your understanding is absolutely correct.
Another reason that ANFO is unlikely is that it’s not quite as simple as pouring your diesel or whatever over the ammonium nitrate. The AN bit needs to be the proper consistency/density, and it needs to be mixed. You pour in, say diesel, and it just cakes over the top. You have to mix it and make a consistent slurry with the fuel oil (which can be about anything, including vegetable oil from the grocery store…). Binary commercial explosives are basically just this–ANFO, but with specific AN and FO components in equally specific proportions, properly mixed, and then detonated with a high explosive firing train. Overall, it’s one of those things that is very simple, yet the actual execution can be very complicated.
There’s a lot of things you can do with AN, even the supposedly “safe” stuff. The IRA was taking the fertilizer that the Brits were allowing, and then doing any number of interesting things to boost it. The East German Stasi taught them, and Hezbollah some interesting techniques, one of which was “gas enhancement” using propane or natural gas. It was a gas-enhanced truck bomb that did the damage in Beirut when they blew up the Marine barracks there, which pointed to probable East German support for the attack. Which we looked the other way on…
Same shit with OKC–Whatever it was that McVeigh used, it produced results way past what he should have been able to achieve. To this day, I have serious doubts about the “official story” because of that. McVeigh wasn’t even a combat engineer–He was a line infantry grunt, no real experience with explosives at all. Creating a bomb like that isn’t something you manage on your first try, or even your tenth or so. To my eye, and more than a few EOD types I’ve talked to about it over the years (including some who were there the day of…), McVeigh and his butt buddy are extremely unlikely candidates for making what happened that day happen. I’m convinced that there were technical experts involved, from somewhere. The idea that they “accidentally” did what they did is ludicrous.
yea some one helped McVeigh, his FBI handlers
I think BATF, or the Iraqi connection. Either way, it was never investigated properly, nor was it likely those two assclowns managed what they did on their own. Personally, the contacts that Nichols had in the PI with Islamic terrorists still raise questions for me.
There’s a whole lot of “WTF” that’s been going on since at least the end of the Cold War. Most of the stuff before then can be traced to Soviet/KGB/GRU operations, but the stuff since most of those guys got de-funded? Huge questions remain to be answered, not the least of which is this one: How did two inbred idiots from the upper Midwest pull off a textbook-precise truck bombing that exhibited a fair amount of technical expertise they had no way of having?
If Nichols and McVeigh had spent a couple of years in a terror camp, or done extensive secret blasting work in private, somewhere? Yeah; whole thing becomes believable. The story we got from the trials? No. Fucking. Way.
I’ve got a fair amount of knowledge, and a bit more practical experience. I don’t think I’d be able to pull off the OKC bombing on my first try, if I were the guy to try doing it. Too many little things that could go wrong, not the least of which were the fucking firing trains. I’ve got no idea how they managed those, and if I were to have to do it the way they supposedly did, without access to military-grade initiators? Fuhgeddaboudit. The odds that those two schmendricks pulled that off…? Too high to calculate using your fingers, that’s for damn sure.
Now that I’ve got my black helicopters comment off my chest, I’ve got my tin foil hat adjusted to its correct tightness. Now to the FBI.
You remember that ISIS-inspired shooting in Garland TX back in 2015 where a Garland PD cop shot down two rifle-armed Islamic terrorists with his Glock 21?
Yeah, it turns out that the shooters’ FBI agent was *on the scene when it happened* and almost got shot when he tried to drive away from the scene. He’d been texting one or both shooters, trying to goad them into the attack.
That article doesn’t have all the details, but it should give you enough info to google around.
So did McVeigh and Nichols have FBI handlers? I dunno. But if they did, it certainly wouldn’t be the only time that an FBI-inspired terror entrapment plot got a little out of hand.
I do wonder why McVeigh went to the chair to protect a Fed, but maybe he never knew he was a Fed. Who knows.
And Kirk, thanks for your commentary about the complexity of the bomb/bombing itself. I had heard rumors to that effect before, but never from a reliable source like yourself.
And, that Garland cop deserves a freaking medal. Maybe he got one, I don’t know. He saw the guys get out of the car with their rifles and vests, then he immediately threw down, closed the distance and made head shots on both of them. That’s nice shootin’, Tex, and what’s more, some brave police work. Broward County should take notes.
It’s certainly synonymous with common practices within some Federal agencies, but I’m thinking with the FBI involved, the blast would never have actually happened. BATF? LOL… Yeah, they’re that incompetent. FBI usually manages to get the skells arrested before they kill. And, look at the legislation that was before Congress–Again, BATF was on the chopping block, facing amalgamation.
McVeigh going to the death chamber quietly can be explained easily: They had his sister, and likely threatened to prosecute her and others. I still find it very suspicious that they greased the skids for him, compared to others. I think they wanted him silent, and made it happen. He knew something the Feds didn’t want getting out, ever. Compare McVeigh to any of the other major terrorists we’ve prosecuted–How many of the 9/11 guys are executed? What does that tell you?
Just on the outside evidence, I think there was something at OKC they wanted hidden, and hidden deep. Which is, in and of itself, a very bad thing–Everything the Feds did raises suspicions, and nothing they did gives the outside observer any confidence that there wasn’t something going on. When you’ve got guys like me going “Hey, now… WTF?”, along with some of my friends in EOD saying the exact same thing, plus the fact that they were ushered off the site before they could do much in the way of BDA? Yeah, that’s not what I’d call a “confidence builder”. There were signs all over the place on that site that the “ofeeeshul stories” weren’t quite right, and then they demolished it most expeditiously. From rumors I’ve heard, the landfill site where most of the debris is buried is off-limits to this day, and still very carefully monitored. Were you to try to do an independent outside forensic investigation today, I strongly believe you’d be shut down and probably wind up in prison…
Interesting commentary on McVeigh and his sister. It’s also possible that he thought he was protecting a friend and had no idea that his “friend” was a Fed.
It is interesting to contrast McVeigh’s treatment against the treatment of 9/11 and other Islamo-terrorists. For one thing, McVeigh attacked the FedGov directly. There’s a huge element of “cop-killer” to McVeigh. Sure, Wall Street bankers are a privileged elite in this country, but the 9/11 guys might’ve gotten a different treatment if the J. Edgar Hoover building had been their primary target.
Secondly, nothing tightens the sphincters of TPTB in the USA quite like right-wingers organizing into effective groups. McVeigh’s loose-knit “group”, operating at that level of effectiveness? If we had one of those every year in this country since OKC, the only Feds left in this country would be holed up in the NORAD mountain. Islamic Terrs pulling a 9/11 every year? Yeah, the politicians would get cycled out pretty fast, but the Deep State would just get more surveillance power and more arrest powers. So yeah, make McVeigh ride the lightning, pour encourager les autres.
Store that much ammonium nitrate of questionable provenance in a hot warehouse along the coast of the Med, and see what sort of interesting chemical reactions take place, producing God alone knows what.
You also don’t really need an oxidizer under some conditions–That’s why they use pressure cookers to “boost” the ammonium nitrate. Raise the heat/pressure index enough, and even the garden-variety plain old stuff you buy in the feed store will go “boom”.
I seriously doubt that this was an actual ANFO blast. Degradation, heat, pressure–That’s all it took. This sort of stuff should have never been stored like that, or near dwellings. It belongs out in the countryside where you’ve got blast walls for containment, and nothing to damage.
No, this isn’t anything other than sheer inbred Arab fecklessness. Look at the pictures of how that stuff was stored in the warehouse–Great big open-top bags of the material. Totally against every single friggin’ safety standard you’d see in a well-run American shop. It’s a fucking miracle this didn’t happen a long time ago–That stuff has been stored since 2014.
Anyone wants an eye-opener, just go looking for the pertinent industrial safety manuals, and you’ll start looking at that bag of fertilizer in the garage a hell of a lot differently.
Well, I did some homework.
Apparently, ammonium nitrate will explosively decompose at temps of somewhere between 175 to 210C and higher. A portion of the stockpile that achieves this can heat the surrounding ammonium nitrate quickly enough to cause it to decompose as well, causing a detonation.
The reaction goes like thus:
2(NH4NO3) (add heat)-> 2(N2)+ O2 + 4(H2O)
This would account for two things we saw: the brown/red cloud, which will be the nitrogen compounds coming off the fire, and the rapidly expanding water vapor cloud.
Interesting. So it doesn’t need a fuel. I hadn’t known that previously.
As to why there was so much stored there: Well, some sources say that Hezbollah has been building up quite an arsenal in Lebanon over the last several years. The ship that brought it in in 2014 basically couldn’t go anywhere, so the cargo was offloaded. But why would they hang onto such a large amount of a dangerous load there in port? Enter Hezbollah. How convenient for them that such a compound in such a quantity just dropped into their laps.
I checked out firefighting references on the topic of ammonium nitrate. The instruction basically come down to this: For small amounts, saturate with water (which will cause the ammonium nitrate to dissolve). Large amounts, put a master stream device on it and get the heck back ASAP.
Well, another day, another “workplace accident” in the middle east. Third worlders gonna third world.
DG, I’ve worked in the grain industry for 40+ years. Many of these elevators, even some that are quite large, are part of “farm service centers” that have a fertilizer division that blends and stores various fertilizers and many of those are adjacent to the elevator. But I’ve never heard of dust from the elevator causing any problems in the fertilizer plant.
I’m not saying that there might not have been a small dust explosion in the elevator that caused some kinda secondary fire in the fertilizer or the fireworks storage areas, but it seems unlikely to me. Of course that doesn’t address your question, but anyway. Looking at the damage to the elevator and grain silos, I don’t see any obvious evidence of fire. I see a lot of damage to the silo walls on the side adjacent to the crater, but not the other side, and a lot of spilled grain (the yellow stuff) and usually that grain would have caught fire and been smoldering for a long time afterwards if the silos had been subject to a dust explosion that blew the structure apart like that. The silo damage is huge along that side..
However I do see that the head house containing the elevating machinery on the far end is pretty much obliterated and there are some silo roofs gone as well as the entire conveyor gallery atop the silos. You’d expect that from a massive dust explosion. Usually what happens is, you get a small explosion that shakes all the dust loose and that’s what causes the massive dust explosions. Google up Galveston, Texas or Westwego, Louisiana (that’s in the NOLA area) from the mid-to late 1970’s or more recently, Atchison and Haysville in Kansas. But generally speaking, where’s the fire? Usually that kinda grain elevator damage from a dust explosion will have a hella fire along with it.
I’m watching this pretty closely simply because of the elevator and it will be well covered in the grain trade publications going forward, whatever the cause. Google up Grain Journal and especially World Grain because of their greater international presence and they’ll have something on-line eventually.
Many thanks for your comment. As a former farmer, I’m always interested in ag market issues.
I’m also wondering if they can salvage any of that grain that has spilled from containment. It looks like rather a lot of grain relative to a nation the size/population of Lebanon.
This is some high-quality commentary, guys. Thanks.
But how do we not get a “Beirut Was Surprised by the FOOM!” headline?
Well considering our grandfather was killed in an dust explosion when our dad was 2 yaers old and know my dads drive to make a better mouse trap so to speak and growing up in a construction family who has built grain elevators all over the world I call bull-shit on any type of dust explosion. I also have mining experience and I know ammonium nitrate would with the right fuel would certainly do the damage done.
Look at Oklahoma City… Enough said…
Holy crap, we have half of The Legend here amongst us.
Hey, Mike! How do we know it’s really you and not your evil twin Fred hacked into your account? I wouldn’t put it past him………
How ya doin’, man? Haven’t seen you since y’all did all that work down in Ensign.
Another perspective on the explosion, from much closer:
This is close enough that this couple was probably at the very least gravely injured.
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