IFA `13: Fertilizer Institute President discusses deadly West, Texas explosion

21 May 2013 22:06  [Source: ICIS news]

CHICAGO (ICIS)--The fatal West Fertilizer explosion in Texas has provided the industry a chance to develop initiatives to improve transparency, safety and compliance, the president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) said on Tuesday.

West Fertilizer, contrary to various media reports, was not a fertilizer plant but one of the 6,000 similar retail facilities currently operating within the US, said Ford West, TFI president. He made his comments at the 81st annual International Fertilizer Association (IFA) conference.

Entitled “A Look at West, Texas”, Ford’s presentation informed IFA delegates about the blast on 17 April and gave some insight gained from the results of the still ongoing investigation of the retail distributor.

“I will be honest with you, I would prefer that I wasn’t here today and that I didn’t have to stand up here today and talk about an explosion and an accident,” said Ford. “The reality is we did have a fire and an explosion at a retail facility in West, Texas.”

The magnitude of the blast, which has caused an estimated $100m (€78m) in damages and resulted in 15 deaths and approximately 200 injuries, left a 3,000 foot (915 metre) radius where everything was destroyed.

Authorities with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Texas State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) have determined that ammonium nitrate was stored in wooden bins at the facility and was the source of the eruption.

SFMO and ATF investigators have determined that there were two explosions at the site, coming milliseconds apart, and that the force of the blast was the equivalent of 15,000-20,000 lb (6,800-9,100 kg) of TNT.  

Ford said it was his opinion that the industry wants inspections and transparency and to be good stewards for the environment and for the general public.

“Our challenge will be to try and demonstrate that these facilities are safe,” Ford said. “The majority of them are in compliance and are managed very good but we have to identify all these facilities. These are the efforts we are going to have to undertake to identify and support these facilities to make sure they are in compliance and up to speed on the codes no matter if their state requires it or not.”

IFA president Bill Doyle said the accident marks a turning point in the industry and that it should remind everyone within the fertilizer industry that safety needs to be a top priority.

“When I became president of IFA, one of the focuses I really wanted our industry to concentrate on was safety and the safety of our people and communities in which we operate in. It is absolutely paramount to this industry, and I hope that West, Texas, and the tragic events there hopefully will be a final wakeup call for our industry,” said Doyle.

($1 = €0.78)


By: Mark Milam



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