Ammonium Nitrate Fueled West, Texas Blast

Last month, a gigantic explosion rocked the small town of West, Texas. A local fertilizer plant blew up, killing 14 people. Hundreds were injured as the force of the blast destroyed homes. The explosion left behind a 90-foot-wide crater and could be felt as far away as Dallas.

New insights into the blast’s nature indicate that it might have been the result of ammonium nitrate that was ignited by a fire that was raging at the plant when the explosion occurred. Ammonium nitrate has nitrogen ions that are easily absorbed by plants as nutrients, but the substance is also commonly used as an ingredient in explosives.

Ammonium nitrate does not blow up on its own and typically has to be exposed to some other chemical for a reaction to occur. Due to what appears to be a combination of poor record keeping and lax regulation, investigators are unsure how much ammonium nitrate was present on the site.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been giving displaced citizens hotel vouchers, but the town will have to wait a little longer for answers into exactly what happened.