The Oppau Explosion


    THE directors of the Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik state in the Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie for October 4 that the explosion at the nitrogen fixation works at Oppau on September 21 took place in a store containing about 4500 tons of ammonium sulphate nitrate. They explain that, before the war, only sulphate of ammonia was made at Oppau; ammonium nitrate was manufactured during the war, and since then, mixtures of ammonium nitrate and potassium chloride, and more recently ammonium nitrate and sulphate for use as fertilisers. They definitely state that no ammonium nitrate was present in the works at Oppau at the time of the explosion, and go on to say that while the explosive nature of ammonium nitrate is well known, this feature can be completely eliminated by mixing it with potassium or sodium chlorides; the double salt, 2NH4NO3.(NH4)2SO4, had also been shown to be non-explosive when pure as well as when it is produced on the works scale. They proceed to quote evidence as to the non-explosive character of this salt from the fact that it gives no distension in the Trauzl block test, when exploded by means of a detonator containing 2 grams of mercury fulminate, and in substantiation of its innocuous character they adduce the fact that in factories producing it no accident has occurred for a number of years, when explosives have been applied to it for the purpose of breaking up blocks of the mixed salts which have set hard. They deny that Oppau was completely destroyed, and say that the portion of the factory devoted to the production of ammonia from the air and of ammonium sulphate is comparatively uninjured, so that the manufacture could be started, again, and they end with an assurance that the production of ammonia by high pressure as carried out by the Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik has nothing whatever to do with the explosion.

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    The Oppau Explosion. Nature 108, 278–279 (1921).

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