Highway damage near Charleville.

Submitted: Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 04:59
ThreadID: 109422 Views:3881 Replies:6 FollowUps:16
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Not too sure if this is getting any play elsewhere but a 50 ton load of fertilizer rolled near Charleville and mixed with diesel fuel exploded well after the initial crash, thankfully no one was killed but the blast was felt 30km away.Check out the story and photos in Courier mail.

Fertilizer truck explodes near Charleville
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Reply By: Duncanm - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 08:48

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 08:48
Link to a similar accident 42yrs ago.

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:13

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:13
Thanks for that duncan. I wasn't aware of that event.

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Follow Up By: Duncanm - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:28

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:28
Hi Allan. I was listening to Maca on the ABC early this morning and I think it was the brother in law of one of those killed in the one 42+ yrs ago that was talking to Maca about the recent event. I then looked it up. It's no wonder the terrorists get onto this stuff.
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Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 11:31

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 11:31
I've always been concerned that large quantities of both parts of a well known explosive are carried on the same truck without there being any real measures taken to prevent those two parts from mixing in the case of an accident.

50 tonnes of explosive is going to make a big hole no matter which way you mix it.

1 tonne of that mixed right would make a big hole.

Think of the mess this would have made if it was in or near a populated area.

Lots of town have curves or bends comming into them.......if a similar thing happned comming into one of those towns, there would be carnage and most of the town would be flattened.

look at what happened to that solid concrete bridge that was "nearby".

scary as hell

AnswerID: 538732

Follow Up By: Neil & Pauline - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:35

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:35
The diesel was required to power the truck. Besides the chances of getting the ratios correct via spillage would be pretty remote. But put a fire into the equation and that is a different storey. Just need to see the reactions when someone is seen smoking within 50 metres of a fertiliser storage facility. Then again grain storage/cartage can be just as volatile due to the dust.

We cannot remove all risk in the world, just hope you are not around when all the ducks line up.

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Follow Up By: Stu & "Bob" - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 14:25

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 14:25
Just looking at the pics, I don't believe that it was a "full order" explosion, there is not enough damage for that. I think that a small explosion ( 1 or 2 tonnes), and the remainder deflagrated.
FollowupID: 823310

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:18

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:18
I know the diesel was there to power the truck but bet ya boots that the nitrate was just loaded in ordinary large cloth bags on the back of the truck.
When the truck went over there would have been nitrate everywhere because bags would have split.

Dump 50 tonnes on nitrate on the ground an then put a couple of hundred litres of diesel on the ground with it and a couple of tonnes will get to the right mix no problem...besides I believe the "sucessful" mix ratio for ampho is a pretty wide window.

requiring nitrate to be containerised would reduce the risk level consideably.

This " we cant remove all the risk in the world" is a cheap cop out no more no less.

This is a risk with a reasonable chance of occurnce.....statistically 2 events in 40 years.......two accidents that could have wiped a town off the map.......in this country......it has a very very high level of consequence...the highest..probable massive devistation and loss of many lives.

putting some relativly simple, easy and low cost to impliment controlls in place to reduce is hardly unreasonable.

Such as
more robustly containing the nitrate....containerising, using palecons or anything better than a big cloth bag

shipping it in restriced quantities.......at least there would be a smaller hole

shipping it in smaller packages......smaller packages are in general stronger and less spills from each breakage

imposing restrictions on the transport of nitrate.

If this was 50 tonnes of product, it must have been at least a be Bdouble or a road train.

I believe it may be reasonable to reduce the amount shipped to that capable of being carried by a single semi.

Think about this.
when mythbusters blew up the cement truck....that is a cement truck half full of hardened cement.....it only took them about 400Kg of explosive to make it " go away"

In the case of the recent accident, I do not beleieve enywhere near 50 tonnes of the nitrate expolded...it would have only taken a few of tonnes of "sucessfull mix" to cause that sort of damage

As for furtiliser plants...HELL...arround a furtiliser plant the least of your worries is the nice stable granulated Amonium Nitrate.......there are some very very dangerous chemicals and processes in furtiliser plants

Yes I know that nitrate will burn and explode all by its self under the right conditions...but introduce...as the safety documents say...an incompatable substance....the whole situation gets very very much more serious.

Just to give some idea of the risk and the prevalence
a couple of things I happened upon

fnance 2003...3 to 5 tonnes of nitrate expoldes 26 casualties.
82 houses sustain structrual damage ( neaerest 60 meters)...steel beams projected 500meters.

France 2001 40 to 60 tonnes of nitrate expoles of 300 to 400 on the site.....30 dead 2242 injured...

Taroom Australia (probably the incident linked) 2 tonnes of nitrate expoleds killing 3.

this stuff needs to be taken much more serioulsy.

FollowupID: 823312

Follow Up By: Neil & Pauline - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:37

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:37
liquid ammonium nitrate does not come in bags.
All that sort of liquid is supposed to be in a pretty substantial container with a more substantial frame around. I guess there will be an enquiry as to how come the product was able to leak out.

All dangerous goods trucks have GPS tracking and tyre monitors as a minimum, as they should.

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 17:35

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 17:35
Kalari, the company that owns this truck, use special tankers to cart the emulsion. Never seen it in bags.

Most of the units we see up this way, en route to McArthur River Mine, are AB Triples. This one may have only been a Double, or a "B" Double, with 50 tonne on board.

If the lead trailer ruptured, and partially mixed with diesel, the chance of a "smaller explosion" might be possible, as it's unlikely diesel from ruptured fuel tanks would have contaminated emulsion from the other trailer/s, if they did rupture. Am not an explosive expert by any means!

Back about 1970, we were camped near Keep River, on road between Kununurra & Legune Station. A seismic crew were working in the area to the SE of us, and to the west of Bulloo River. They'd packed up, and the boss of the crew called in to see us, and advise they "lost" one their trucks(International R Model)to a fire. This had lead to a small bush fire, and if we wished to make a damages claim, to contact their head office.

Some days later, we were mustering through that area and found the truck, or what was left of it. :-). The twisted remains of the chassis, was in a crater about a metre deep and perhaps 25M in diameter. Bit of other debris scattered all over the flat too.

Call me cynical, but I'd say the truck might have been a write-off, so they loaded all the unused explosives(to far to cart these back to Perth) and blew the lot up. Back then gelignite was used to make a bang, for the seismic gear to record. Now they just use these big hydraulic thumpers.........and cover a lot more country.


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Follow Up By: BunderDog - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 18:40

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 18:40
Ammonium nitrate come in 1 tonne Bulka bags or 25 kg bags. The truck was carrying dry fertilizer.
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Follow Up By: Stu & "Bob" - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 19:05

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 19:05
They also carry it in bulk in semi tippers, under a tarp. Normal procedure when delivering straight to the bench in an open cut coal mine.
Considering the amount of ammonium nitrate used just in QLD every year, accidents are very rare.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 21:49

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 21:49
2 major accidents in 30 years in the same state is not "very rare" in terms of risk managment.

Considering the consequence...the risk is still very high.

As has been mentioned if this accident happened in a populated area There could have been deaths counted in the nens or hundreds and casulaties counted in the thousands.

remember an exposion of a similar quantity..still in a semi-rural area killed 30 and injured over 2000.

Stand by for changes to practices and legeslation.

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Reply By: garrycol - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 11:43

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 11:43
The blast was not felt 30km away - that was an unrelated earth tremor that just happened around the same time.
AnswerID: 538733

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:26

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:26
show me that one in writing.

The way I read it, an earth tremor was recoreded.....nowhere do I see anybody claiming it was unrelated.

A neibour dropping a modest sized eucalipt 100 meters away rattled the windows here..and I felt it thru the concrete slab of the house.

make a hole that big...an explosion big enough to make a "nearby" solid cement road bridge go away...mate you will fell that "some distace away".

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Follow Up By: garrycol - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 16:45

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 16:45
It was in the news with the seismic people being interviewed - didn't even happen at the same time.
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Follow Up By: Geobserver - Monday, Sep 08, 2014 at 12:12

Monday, Sep 08, 2014 at 12:12
Here it is in writing Bantam... definitely unrelated. 30kms is a long way!


There's reference in The Age if you don't trust the Tele.
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Reply By: CSeaJay - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:49

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 13:49
A blast of that magnitude would be felt from a long way thats for sure. It demolished the road.
AnswerID: 538740

Reply By: 671 - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:52

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 15:52
This is another fertilizer explosion. I saw this film over 40 years ago during training with the RAAF and the WA Mines Dept.


The percentage of diesel required to make it explode is very low but that may be more for economy reasons than anything else. A lot more of it may well give the same results.

It takes a decent size shock wave to get it going. A detonator in a bag of it is more likely to just just scatter it. About a quarter of a stick of gelignite as a primer is usually needed.

The real problem seems to be when it is exposed to heat in a confined space.
AnswerID: 538741

Follow Up By: Neil & Pauline - Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 23:13

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 23:13
Too much diesel and it won't work, simple. Been there done that.
FollowupID: 823345

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Sep 08, 2014 at 17:56

Monday, Sep 08, 2014 at 17:56
If ya got a big pile ( quite a few tonnes )of nitrate lying on the ground, then you pour a couple of hundred litres of diesel on the ground with it.

there will be sufficient of it that achieves a " sucessfull mix" to be a viable explosive capable of making a very big hole.

Remember 400KG makes a cement mixer half full of set cement "go away"....that is less than half of one, 1 tonne bulk bag.

Then there is the issue of Nitrate becoming unstable for a variety of reaons........add diesel and it becomes a hell of a lot more unstable.

The words in the safety doccuments are..."avoid contact with incompatable substances"

FollowupID: 823376

Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 18:54

Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 18:54
Ammonium Nitrate doesn't need diesel to go off. It can go off with internal heating when there's a stockpile (or a truckload, or a shipload).
An AN explosion can be caused by a process known as Self Sustained Decomposition.
This is where the product commences to decompose chemically in the middle of the stockpile or load.
The SSD process generates heat, and the heat generated can start a fire, and BANG, up it all goes.

There have been numerous AN explosions around the world.

The Texas City Disaster in 1947 was the worlds worst AN explosion. A ship loaded with 2600 tonnes of AN blew up in Texas City port after a fire started in the hold, and the blast caused immense destruction.
The TCD killed a total of 581 people and the blast broke windows 40 miles (64kms) away.

A more recent one in France (Tolouse) in 2001 caused 2.5 billion euros worth of damage, and killed 31 people.
Another one in 2004, a train explosion in NK, killed 162 and injured 3000. The real toll was probably much higher.
This explosion was reported as a possible attempt on the Little Fat Wun's life - who only travels by train to avoid assassination - but it was more likely due to impurities in the AN, which are a big no-no.

AN disasters around the world

We have to balance requirements of a dangerous product with the risk.
We transport tankerloads of petrol around the world, and huge shiploads of AN as well.
Ammunition and explosives ships regularly transport huge amounts of explosives during Wartime.
All possible steps are taken to minimise the known risks. No smoking, safety a priority, minimising the possibilities of fire or overheating.

There hasn't been a major AN disaster for a while. There's bound to be one in the future when all the holes in the cheese line up, as the pilots are fond of saying.

However, in this case, Kalari and the AN shippers need a good kick up the a****.
It seems rather obvious the truck driver went to sleep and ran off the road.

This is an entirely avoidable scenario for AN transport.
There should be two drivers at all times, minimal driving hours to avoid tiredness - and no night transport.
I'm sure something like these conditions/regulations will soon be introduced for AN transport.

There will be screams about "nanny state" when tighter rules and regulations are brought in - but it can all be sheeted home to trucking companies who treat transport of DG's with a casual attitude.

In this same vein, Cootes petrol tanker disaster has had a major impact on trucking conditions, Australia-wide.
My workshop neighbour, a truckie, has just lost all his work and contracts, because he was happily using a 1977 KW to haul his Woolworths trailers around.

Last month, he got booted unceremoniously out onto the street with his contract stripped off him on the spot - because since the Cootes disaster, all major companies now deem old trucks (even though they are in GC and well-maintained) as an unacceptable risk.

The companies now demand near-new trucks for their trailer-hauling, and have immediately relegated a lot of good trucks to paddock work.

The trucking companies only have themselves to blame for any draconian rules that are now initiated as a knee-jerk reaction.

AnswerID: 539077

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 19:36

Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 19:36
Thanks Ron N - good explanation
If my memory serves me correctly, Kalari was bought by the Swire Group quite a few years ago. They were a top trucking company and I think were one of the first (if not the first) to computerise their trucks, producing a record of location, time, speed, what gear engaged, rest breaks, etc and details associated servicing intervals and so on.
Kalari trucks commanded top prices in the second hand market, for good reason.
Whether the Swire group have maintained that envious position in the market I don't know. Certainly overall their trucks are now not as well cleaned, often a good indicator. (IPEC under Barton was another example)
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