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Apr 18 2013

Audio/video from West, Texas explosion

This is all unfolding about an hour and half north of me. There are at least three people I know who we haven’t heard from who live near the area. I have no reason to think they’re among the 5 to 15 reported dead or the 200 or more injured, but it’s definitely close to home. Meanwhile, in a report that should be shocking to no one, the plant reports on itself as being completely safe just a few years ago:

Dallas Morning News — The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in West, Texas, reported to the Environmental Protection Agency and local public safety officials that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, documents show. West Fertilizer Co. reported having as much as 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on hand in an emergency planning report required of facilities that use toxic or hazardous chemicals.

But the report, reviewed Wednesday night by The Dallas Morning News, stated “no” under fire or explosive risks. The worst possible scenario, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.

It’s certainly possible that someone at the plant did this on purpose, it’s probably more likely there was a confluence of unlikely events that conspired to cause a freak accident. But it’s just as possible a company was squeezing every last dime of profit they could, fuck the employees and safety, and took advantage of underfunded government oversight orgs and a state governor who thinks the EPA and related groups are the economic spawn of Satan to skirt regs and cut corners.

Regardless of which one of those scenarios,  if any, turns out to be closest to the mark, I assure you, taxpayers will be stuck cleaning this mess up and the local middle class working community will continue to bear the brunt of the pain. Socialism and government is only evil when it helps the middle class or working poor. When grabbing government dough, when fat subsidies are being handed out, and most especially when pawning off the losses caused by anything from bad luck to gross negligence, socialism is the tea-party CEO’s best friend.

The main explosion occurs at about 30 seconds. The guy who got this video was interviewed on the news and added both he and the little girl you’ll hear are doing fine.

And if that sounds too bitter or cynical at this early juncture, sorry, but it’s the truth. Over the last decade our nation has become the most crooked, corrupt, ugly joyless place to work and live I’ve ever visited, much less lived in. And it’s almost entirely the doing of corporate money buying politicians and picking the pocket of everyone they can get their filthy mitts into.

Update: it’s not clear what happened in West, obviously, even the exact substances are not agreed upon right now. But here’s a video showing you a scaled down version of the basic physics that may have been at work. A heat source ignites a cloud of explosives, the basis of a Fuel Air Bomb or thermobaric device when weaponized.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    You post on capitalism (http://freethoughtblogs.com/zingularity/2013/04/16/nice-diary-on-capitalism/) seems relevant here as the most likely reason for the explosion.

  2. 2
    Steve Sirhan

    And, in a small town like this, conservative Texas, how many of its residents believed this anti-regulatory hypercapitalist message before today? How many still will, even afterward?

  3. 3
    magistramarla

    My husband was speculating whether the explosion might have been a cover-up for the theft of materials for a bomb, since it is so close to the anniversary of the Waco incident.
    I was wondering if it could have been the result of the lax regulations in the “business-friendly” Texas that Perry has been bragging about.
    I’m thinking that my theory (and yours) might be the closest to the truth.
    I’m also worried about the fracking that is going on for the Eagle’s Ford shale. I’ve been living in California for the last few years and have only felt three gentle tremors. I’m wondering whether we’ll be feeling more earthquakes when we move back to Texas.

  4. 4
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    There’s all kinds of speculation popping up about inside jobs, revenge for the Davidians, etc. When there’s this magnitude of damage it may turn out we never know for sure, everything’s blown to shit at the potential crime scene.

    BTW there’s an increidbly annoying glitch on WordPress right now where the cursor won’t show up visibly in the comment or edit screen. It’s driving me nuts and leading to a lot of typos, anyone else seeing this crap?

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    CNN et al have been asking whether there’s any suspicion of criminal activity and the authorities, reasonably, have been saying there’s no indication of that but they’re keeping their eyes open. I’m going to go out on a fairly short limb and say that the cause will almost certainly come down to criminal activity, just not the kind CNN has in mind: criminal negligence by the plant owners, who are no doubt conferring with bankruptcy attorneys already.

    No cursor problems on this end.

  6. 6
    coragyps

    Anhydrous ammonia is very unlikely to be what exploded – in the gaseous state, it can explode when mixed in a fairly narrow range of concentrations in air. This certainly sounds like an ammonium nitrate explosion (a la Murrah building), and they apparently did have ammonium nitrate in that plant. If you have a big fire next to a bin of ammonium nitrate, an explosion is certainly a likely outcome. If it’s next to a tank of anhydrous ammonia, a ruptured tank and a bigass cloud of choking vapors is much more probable. And that possibly happened as a result of the explosion – some reports talk about toxic smoke.

    I think “industrial accident,” myself.

  7. 7
    haitied

    So glad to hear these folks are ok, what a powerful explosion. Saw the video earlier today, I have relatives in the DFW area, they were too far to hear or feel anything but it’s local news for them certainly.

  8. 8
    Ben P

    Anhydrous ammonia is very unlikely to be what exploded – in the gaseous state, it can explode when mixed in a fairly narrow range of concentrations in air. This certainly sounds like an ammonium nitrate explosion (a la Murrah building), and they apparently did have ammonium nitrate in that plant. If you have a big fire next to a bin of ammonium nitrate, an explosion is certainly a likely outcome. If it’s next to a tank of anhydrous ammonia, a ruptured tank and a bigass cloud of choking vapors is much more probable. And that possibly happened as a result of the explosion – some reports talk about toxic smoke.

    I think “industrial accident,” myself.

    Possible, but what I heard described on the radio this morning was almost a boilover type explosion. There was a fire in the fertilizer plant and they had a pair of 12,000 gallon tank of NH3. I don’t know precisely what conditions will let NH3 combust, but I’d bet that if you have a highly pressurized tank heated to 300 or 400 degrees, which then ruptures and sprays the gas into a live burning fire, you have some potential.

  9. 9
    Steve Sirhan

    Coragyps is right about the type of criminality likely involved, tho Gov. Helmethair and his successor, Greg Abbott, would never pursue such a case.

    And per Cora and Ben, hell, BOTH may have been exploded.

    In any case, that said, this didn’t have to happen. Between TCEQ winks and nods, and possible untruths told to the EPA, this didn’t have to happen. But, will Texans still listen to Tricky Ricky’s demonization of the EPA in particular and regulations in general?

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2013/04/westtx-fertilizer-plant-and-regulatory.html

  10. 10
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    One thing that got my attention in the videos I;ve seen … it reminded me of a fuel air bomb. These are really, really large conventional explosions where an explosive substance is vaporized and injected densely into a large volume of air, then detonated. Under the right conditions it can produce what has been described as a mini nuke, sans the radiation of course.

  11. 11
    coragyps

    @ 8 and 10 – now that does sound possible, I suppose. An ammonia tank ruptured from the heat, and a plume of it happened to get diluted down to between 15% and 28% in air – the range in which it can explode. Helluva blast, in any case….

  12. 12
    Trebuchet

    I’m thinking we’re looking at a BLEVE — Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleve

    A Google search for “ammonia bleve” indicates that it has happened before.

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