Explosives Manufacturer Reports Losing Over 30 Tons of Ammonium Nitrate

Allan Stein
By Allan Stein
May 24, 2023California

Over 30 tons of a chemical used in fertilizer and high explosives went missing from a railcar traveling west from Wyoming to California in April, and investigators still don’t know how it happened.

According to news outlets, on May 10—a month after the incident—explosives manufacturer Dyno Nobel filed a report with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Response Center.

Union Pacific (UP) was the hauler of the multi-compartment railcar from a Dyno Nobel manufacturing plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Saltdale, California—a route spanning over 1,000 miles.

A Dyno Nobel spokesperson told KQED that a sealed railcar carrying 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate left the Cheyenne facility on April 12, “and the seals were still intact when it arrived in Saltdale.”

“The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the railcar may have developed in transit.”

Ammonium nitrate usually ships in 26,000-gallon insulated tank cars with safety valves, according to SafeRack, a leading producer of truck and railcar loading platform systems.

The chemical, “if not handled properly, can cause serious injuries, and personal protective equipment (PPE) is required,” the company wrote on its website.

“Additionally, because operators are on top of the vehicles during the loading process, robust, well-designed fall prevention is essential to ensure increased throughput without compromising operator safety.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said it is also investigating the incident, adding that rail carriers are responsible for adequately securing railcars.

“Rail shippers and railroads are responsible for ensuring rail cars are properly secured, and the Federal Railroad Administration will continue investigating to determine if the railroad or shipper committed any federal violations under DOT’s regulatory authority,” an FRA spokesman told The Epoch Times.

“As Union Pacific and Dyno Nobel investigate this incident, they should engage all necessary parties, including law enforcement, to ensure any potential causes and impacts are addressed swiftly and thoroughly.”

No Foul Play Suspected

A UP spokeswoman told The Epoch Times the incident does not appear to result from foul play. Initial findings suggest the problem was likely a leak caused by a rail car component.

“At this point in the investigation, we do not believe there is any criminal or malicious activity involved,” the spokeswoman said in an email to The Epoch Times.

She said UP works closely with its customers to investigate commodity loss or damaged freight.

“In this case, our investigation is in its early stages because the customer recently reported the possible loss of fertilizer from one compartment of a multi-compartment railcar. The fertilizer is designed for ground application and quick soil absorption,” the spokeswoman said.

“If the loss resulted from a railcar leak over the course of transportation from origin to destination, the release should pose no risk to public health or the environment.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to an email from The Epoch Times requesting comment.

Dyno Nobel did not return a phone call from The Epoch Times.

The explosives company is a global producer of commercial explosives with more than 3,770 employees. The company manufactures over 54 million pounds of packaged explosives and over 1.2 million tons of ammonium nitrate capacity, operating in 32 facilities.

From The Epoch Times

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