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60,000 Pounds of Potential Explosive Component Ammonium Nitrate Lost During Shipping

60,000 Pounds of Potential Explosive Component Ammonium Nitrate Lost During Shipping

Interestingly, the Department of Transportation division that oversees hazardous materials shipping security and safety is currently without an administrator.

It is being reported that 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a substance used as fertilizer and a component in explosives, went missing as it was shipped by train between Wyoming and California last month.

A railcar loaded with 30 tons of the chemical left Cheyenne, Wyoming, on April 12. The car was found to be empty after it arrived two weeks later at a rail stop in the Mojave Desert, according to a short incident report from the explosives firm that made the shipment.

The company, Dyno Nobel, made the report May 10 to the federal National Response Center, or NRC. The report also appeared last week in an NRC database of California incidents managed by the state Office of Emergency Services last Wednesday.

Ammonium nitrate is one of the compounds cited in the Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations related to transportation security. Shippers of bulk quantities of the substance must have security plans that include personnel review, en route security, and methods to prevent unauthorized access.

The reason for these requirements is that Ammonium-Nitrate-Fuel-Oil mixtures are potent explosives.

Ammonium nitrate was used in 1995 at an attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion killed 168 people and injured approximately 850.

Dyno Nobel, an explosive manufacturing company, is investigating and suspects the material may have leaked from the rail car.

The company said the rail car with the material was sealed when it left a manufacturing site in Cheyenne, Wyo., and the seals “were still intact” when it arrived in Saltdale, Calif.

“The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the rail car may have developed in transit,” the statement said.

A report made on May 10 to the National Response Center, a federal emergency call center for railroad incidents, said that the rail car left Wyoming on April 12 and arrived in California empty.

Dyno Nobel said that the rail car was transported back to Wyoming for further investigation and that it had “limited control” of the train’s activity while the cargo was being transported.

Here’s hoping the analysis is correct and the end result of this incident is a super-bloom along the train tracks between California and Wyoming.

Interestingly, there appears to be no Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration administrator, or PHMSA, part of the Transportation Department. This DOT division oversees the regulations related to hazardous materials security and safety during shipping.

PHMSA is responsible for securing the 3.3 million miles of pipelines that snake across the U.S. and limiting environmental damage from crude oil, gas and other substances carried in that labyrinthine network. It dispatches inspectors to the field, writes regulations and fines operators that break its rules.

“It’s an agency that often doesn’t get that much scrutiny or attention,” Erin Murphy, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, said by phone. “It’s really a key agency in a lot of ways.” Without a Senate-confirmed administrator, PHMSA’s agenda and work are diminished, Murphy said. “I would love to see leadership in place.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about the status of the nomination. A representative for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said committee Democrats were not sure why the nomination has been delayed, and a spokesperson for Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the panel, did not provide an on-the-record comment.

Currently, the “acting” administrator is Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown.  Perhaps Department of Transportation head Pete Buttigieg can take a break from gushing press interviews to find a qualified individual to take this post?


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The ammomium nitrate wasn’t in bags as the picture suggests- it was in granular form in a covered hopper with grates at the bottome that open to empty the car.

Odds are- and reports are- one or more of the grates was partially open. Over a few hundred miles.possibly more then a thousand miles, of bumpy travel the cargo leaked out (relatively) slowly. So, all along the routh that freight car traversed, weeds should be growing really well as spring approaches. No danger to anyone or anything. Except for the economic losses due to losing the cargo to begin with.

    fishingfool55 in reply to gospace. | May 22, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    Hopper rail cars have at least three separate compartments. In this case probably just three as 3X60 K is 180 K which is a typical load in these cars. All inlet and outlet valves must have a seal (with a serial number) on them that has to be removed to open that valve. Since all seals were intact, one gate valve was leaking and after two weeks of travel, emptied one compartment.

    CommoChief in reply to gospace. | May 22, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    Tin foil hat time. Maybe that’s what ‘they’ want us to think. Perhaps ‘they’ stole it and will distribute it out to support the acts of eco terrorism or antifa to sow chaos. The thing is we won’t know unless we see an up tick in improvised explosives….unless the absence of that up tick is another false trail to cover a far more sinister goal….

    The tin foil hat stuff is cray cray, Almost certainly this was a leak and there will be plenty of proof as more dense vegetation shows up along the path of the train.

      venril in reply to CommoChief. | May 23, 2023 at 8:20 am

      Best to hope it was a simple leak due to poor maintenance, not hard to believe given the recent run of train failures. So partially fill the same car with an inert material with similar grain size and over each outlet shake it. Easy to prove.

      But investigate the shit out of this – that’s a lot of boom to just go missing in a way to avoid suspicion. Crazies have a long history of blowing things up to further their political agenda.

      gospace in reply to CommoChief. | May 23, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      Stealing bagged goods is easy. Stealing bulk granular items a bit harder. No, a lot harder. Would require a train crew, a locomotive, cooperation with a dispatcher, a suitable siding where the car could be surreptitiosly emptied, then a return of the hopper to the marshalling yard, all without anyone noticing anything amiss… A trainspotter would likely have noted such unusual activity and reported it.

      Interesting note about trainspotters. Post 9/11 DHS was going to make all the really good observation spots complete no trespassing zones for “security”. The railroads stopped them. They carefully explained that the trainspotters routinely reported anything they saw wrong. If they noticed something amiss- or someone new that didn’t fit in with them- they’d report it long before DHS wouold know about it. Railroad police are familiar with all tehn regular trainspotters.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to gospace. | May 22, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    I find it hard to believe that the 30 TONS (60,000 lbs) of ammonium nitrate just simply leaked out the bottom of a hopper car and the train crew didn’t notice something amiss. One would think as the train got lighter the handling of the train would significantly change – it would go fasters as it got lighter. So either (1) the train engineer never questioned the fact that they were continually reducing the throttle to maintain a constant safe speed (ie not speeding up as they lost cargo) or (2) was going like a bat outta Hades at some point along the trip since they were 60,000 lbs lighter than expected at some point along the trip.

    You might very well be correct. And I hope you are. But if that’s the case then it doesn’t speak very well about the safety of transporting good like ammonium nitrate by train.

      A 100 car train is carrying upwards of 48,000,000 pounds

      I doubt they’re feel a loss of 60,000 pounds

        Lucifer Morningstar in reply to murkyv. | May 23, 2023 at 8:09 am

        Fair enough. But if that’s the case then it was lucky it was only fertilizer that was dumped along the route and not say something more toxic.

          A friend was in State Police special response unit. Every month a train car with the same item used in gas executions was transported. Every month he was assigned to follow it as it passed through several cities.

          (Not naming state, cities or chemical.)

    Publius_2020 in reply to gospace. | May 23, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Seems like the shipper should be able to detect that leak by chemical analysis along the railway path. If the leak is constant, you’d see 100 pounds of material per mile over 600 miles, but you’d likely see concentrations in every place where the train stops along the way. Find a few such stops, and test.

      gospace in reply to Publius_2020. | May 23, 2023 at 6:33 pm

      Probably not. It’s probably rained more then once along the route. Ammonium nitrate is water soluable. It’s also a fertlizer. Likely most, if not all, has been taken up by plant life already. In which case it’s already been broken down into what plants are.

    pst314 in reply to gospace. | May 24, 2023 at 7:32 am

    “weeds should be growing really well as spring approaches.”

    Change “growing really well” to “explosive growth”.

I suspect it did leak. It was dumped in a bin that could be emptied from the bottom.

Currently, buying farm fertilizer can be an amazing feat.
My guess is that the 60,000 lbs of Ammonium nitrate will never be found because it is spread across some farm in the mid-section of America.

    Dathurtz in reply to Neo. | May 22, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    I hope so. That sounds like a best case.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to Neo. | May 22, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    My guess is that the 60,000 lbs of Ammonium nitrate will never be found . . .

    Until it goes BOOM! Then all bets are off.

Damn porch pirates.

    1073 in reply to Ironman. | May 22, 2023 at 8:10 pm

    No, it was me.

    I left in my pocket when I washed my jeans. Left a $10 bill too. It dried out OK.

Where is Mayor Pete? – another European vacation?

Antifundamentalist | May 22, 2023 at 2:03 pm

Well, if it was stolen for domestic terrorism, we should know in the next six months or so.

A very large quantity of this material has completely dissappeared without leaving a trace—being a good illustration of what reparations money will look like after about 6 months.

Amazon: your package is out for delivery on truck lt475 currently travelling east on 95th street at 45mph, and will arrive at your door in approx. 1.25 hours.

FeDeRaL gUb’MiNt: Derp. We got no clue why rail cars full of hazardous materials explode or disappear into thin air possing environmental hazards over hundreds of square miles for generations to come.

But we smart. Vote for our guy!

Breaking Bad, season 5 episode 5 “Dead Freight.”

It sounds like the security in place worked correctly. Nobody tampered with the train or took the contents. It simply leaked out, a harmless event.

Well I see butt plug is doing his usual excellent job

    Another Voice in reply to Ironclaw. | May 22, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    And considered to be one of the better Biden appointments !

    JR in reply to Ironclaw. | May 22, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    Again and again and again. You are fixated on Mayor Pete’s sexual orientation. Not his policies. You need to get over your sexual insecurities. Now. Or else come out of the closet once and for all.

      Ironclaw in reply to JR. | May 22, 2023 at 11:28 pm

      You seem to want to have checked that I identify him with his preferred identity that is how he presents himself. That very thing that is the only reason that pedophile in the White House punched his ticket is because he checked that box. Forget it man, I ain’t playing that game.

Has anyone checked the warehouses in the Beirut harbor? Might be a good idea.

angrywebmaster | May 22, 2023 at 7:14 pm

Better call in Banacek. He will want 10% of the value of the product if he recovers it. 🙂

BierceAmbrose | May 23, 2023 at 12:40 am

It was on a train?

I had a weird thought: what if the car is empty because it was never filled in the first place? The left hand signed the paperwork certifying the shipment, and the right hand never got the order to fill it.

Let’s ask Billy Ayers where it went.