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Author: Subject: What did actually explode in Tianjin ?
j_sum1
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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:08


As I read further, the inventory of the warehouse is undoubtedly a shambles with the paperwork bearing little resemblance to the actual chemicals on site.
I think we have all seen items shipped from China that are marked as "gift" or valued at $2.00 when neither of those statements reflects reality at all. Products labelled as something different: red P branded as iron oxide and so forth. It is entirely possible that no one had a clear idea of what was being shipped and in what quantities. What a mess!
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Ozone
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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:18


We neglect to mention that the warehouse may have been built over a long-forgotten weasel graveyard. Weasel bones are catalytic, IIRC. LOL.

Aside, whoa. OK. IF a shit-ton of CaC2 was stored in there, and they hosed down a small-ish fire, they could have ended up with a huge amount of C2H2 (fast, too). Now, C2H2 will definitely detonate via explosive polymerization if pressurized (which is why it's served in solution with acetone), but will burn softly in air. A proper C2H2:air mixture though (or, whoa, O2) will absolutely explode.

See what happens to a proper mixture of C2H2 and air in a balloon is ignited (doesn't take much, either, static will do it). Yep. Kaboom.

As kids, we used to "fish" with CaC2...3L soft drink bottle with a little water, a bag of CaC2 with a small hole, and a cap with a long bit of cannon fuse floated over the lake. Very impressive.

Imagine a few tons in a warehouse.

Still, pure speculation. Lord only knows what all they had (and in what quantities) illegally stashed in there.

It is kind of like those waste bottles from sophomore organic lab back in school...

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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:26


Quote: Originally posted by Ozone  
We neglect to mention that the warehouse may have been built over a long-forgotten weasel graveyard. Weasel bones are catalytic, IIRC. LOL.

No. Weasel bones are used for crucibles. They aren't catalytic.
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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:28


Well, I figured that if a rxn would only go in weasel bone crucibles, that some principle intrinsic to weasel bones was required. Sounds catalytic to me. YMMV.

LOL,

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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:37


It was one of the great aga moments.
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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 18:44


True, that.



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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 20:11


Having been to China repeatedly, and seeing how business is done- This is not a huge surprise:

http://globalnews.ca/news/2173216/company-used-connections-t...

China DOES have safety regulations, fire codes, zoning laws. They do understand risk management and there are many competent Chinese engineers to advise the rule making processes. But sufficiently well placed people may bend these rules...




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[*] posted on 19-8-2015 at 21:22


When i was chatting with the salesman of a small Chinese chemical company while i was trying to order some products, they said shipping some perchlorates depends on the time being shipped, occasionaly they are able to ship it, but the salesman tells me that whenever a small accident happen related to hazardous chemicals, regulations on shipping becomes extremely strict and starts to loosen over time, he says could be month or years. I did get my perchlorate years back then when i ordered, and a month later a small firework truck was burnt killing a handful, that chemical company went bankrupt very soon due to the high strictness of shipping, and hazardous materials was what that company was for.
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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 00:29


Just for giggles, tonight I mixed a small sample of a stoichiometric amount of fine powdered calcium carbide ("Bangsite" carbide canon ammo) with some fine powdered ammonium nitrate and played a propane torch over it. WHOA!

I would be interested to see what it behaves like with a blasting cap-




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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 01:50


Quote: Originally posted by Bert  
Just for giggles, tonight I mixed a small sample of a stoichiometric amount of fine powdered calcium carbide ("Bangsite" carbide canon ammo) with some fine powdered ammonium nitrate and played a propane torch over it. WHOA!

I would be interested to see what it behaves like with a blasting cap-

I was also wondering the result of such a mix...
With water entrapped in the NH4NO3 (hygroscopic):
NH4NO3 + H2O + CaC2 --> H-C#C-H + CaO + NH4NO3 + heat
H-C#C-H + CaO + NH4NO3 + heat --> H-C#C-H + Ca(NO3)2 + NH3 + H2O + N2O + heat
Ca(NO3)2 -heat-> CaO + 2 NO2 + 1/2 O2

Without water is works also but heat is needed first to decompose NH4NO3 to yield a little water:
NH4NO3 -heat-> 2 H2O + N2O

Anyway in the reaction products:
H-C#C-H (endothermic from its elements)
NH3 (endothermic from its elements)
N2O (endothermic from its elements)
NO2
O2
So the resulting gas mix is a very potent explosive





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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 15:09


Perhps it was A load of fluffy toys, Arduninos, submersible solar powered fountains and a huge pile of TNT ?

Reverse engineer from the available data (just a video).

Start with the facts.

What are the trail-leaving brightly burning bits ?
No random guesses : what Can do that and under what conditions ?
Make a list.

Next the Character of the central explosion : what Can behave like that ?
Make a list.

This is just detective stuff, it isn't even Science.

We need a Poirot.

[Edited on 20-8-2015 by aga]




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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 15:42


The long trails of liquidy looking fire is something that used to be done with white phosphorous from a rocket heading- "Liquid fire rockets", it can also be done with some Sodium metal chunks loaded into a rocket heading.

I would guess we are seeing ruptured containers of Sodium metal falling from the sky.




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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 16:24


It looks like they found some of the missing cyanide. Of course, the despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, the Chinese Govt. asserts that the water isn't toxic.

I suppose it could be a "normal" fish-kill event, but the timing and location are uncanny:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peoplesdaily/article-3204797...

Also, "The warehouse housed around 40 different hazardous chemicals, including 700 tons of toxic sodium cyanide, 800 tons of ammonium nitrate and 500 tons of potassium" might explain some of the "burning metal" which was observed--Also a nice source of hydrogen and fire if wet with say, a fire hose.

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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 16:46


Quote:
500 tons of potassium

Sheesh!
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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 16:55


Ah. Potassium, it's all good...

http://youtu.be/HY7mTCMvpEM

(Edit)
If there was really 800 tons of ammonium nitrate on hand, the city was VERY lucky if the blast truly was only 22 tons of TNT equivalent. That crater looks a bit large for the TNT equivalent estimate given, but this type of forensics is not my area of expertise-

[Edited on 21-8-2015 by Bert]




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[*] posted on 20-8-2015 at 17:02


Yeppers. Ka-boom.

And, nice video. Bad-ass. We sure knew how to do it, back in the day.

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[*] posted on 21-8-2015 at 02:24


Quote: Originally posted by aga  

This is just detective stuff, it isn't even Science.
We need a Poirot.
[Edited on 20-8-2015 by aga]

Hercule Poirot is a compatriote, the famous belgian detective. :D ;)
Maybe we need also some londonian input from Sherlock Holmes :P




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[*] posted on 22-8-2015 at 09:50


As a disaster never comes alone...kind of serie rule (*):

Another chemical plant in the east of China, did explode this saturday 22th of augustus 2015.
Huantai district, area of Shandong.
The explosion generated a fire arround 20:50 local hour in the chemical plant of Shandong's Runxing Chemical company.
More than 10 firemen vehicles try to surround and temper the fire.

Windows of the builings and houses of the village where the plant is placed have been blown away and tremors of the explosion were felt more than 2 km arround.

(*)Like one of my french teacher used to say:
Troubles are like toilet paper, you pull to take one or two leaflets...and it is the all paper rol that comes down...

[Edited on 22-8-2015 by PHILOU Zrealone]




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[*] posted on 4-9-2015 at 13:15


Quote: Originally posted by metalresearcher  
A big explosion in Tianjin in a chemicals storage area happened with sad results.

I think this will greatly impact on safety regulations in Chinese production and storage facilities.

But as a chemistry hobbyist (but not the least important, the safety authorities) I want to know WHAT actually exploded ?



A buddy of mine got ahold of a list of stored materials that was in one of the warehouses. One of our pasttimes whenever something like this is to dig up whatever we can on it and speculate about what happened.

Based on the footage and the list, here's what I think happened:

Fire spread into the warehouse. The warehouse contained everything from pressurized propane to liquid Toluene, Acetone, and MEK. A container of some kind of flammable liquid was ignited and burst. The fire spread to the pressurized containers, which acted as an FAE device across the surface of the fire, generating enough heat and pressure to cause the Nitrates to release oxygen.

I think the footage is consistent with an FAE type explosion, not something like a chemical explosive so much as a massive, MASSIVE fireball. IMO it could've been a lot worse if the tanks had managed to leak for a bit before exploding.

IIRC there were also organic peroxides of some unknown type in the warehouse.
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[*] posted on 4-9-2015 at 14:13


Quote: Originally posted by James Ikanov  

A buddy of mine got ahold of a list of stored materials that was in one of the warehouses .... which acted as an FAE device across the surface of the fire

So what was in there, and what is an FAE device ?




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[*] posted on 4-9-2015 at 19:52


Quote: Originally posted by aga  
Quote: Originally posted by James Ikanov  

A buddy of mine got ahold of a list of stored materials that was in one of the warehouses .... which acted as an FAE device across the surface of the fire

So what was in there, and what is an FAE device ?

Field Active Effect... no, Funny Acetylene Ether. Fire Assesment Element. Ferocious Acrocanthosaurus Enragement... yeah, no idea.
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[*] posted on 4-9-2015 at 20:37


Fuel-Air-Explosive

Yes, I'm aware anyone questioning it knew that already...
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[*] posted on 9-9-2015 at 14:24


Quote: Originally posted by aga  
Quote: Originally posted by James Ikanov  

A buddy of mine got ahold of a list of stored materials that was in one of the warehouses .... which acted as an FAE device across the surface of the fire

So what was in there, and what is an FAE device ?


Fuel Air Explosive, as said previously. (sorry about leaving you hanging, I don't check things that often :P )

Went and found what he sent me:

Chemicals: Compressed and liquefied gases (argon, compressed natural gas); flammable liquid (methyl ethyl ketone, ethyl acetate); flammable materials(sulfur, nitrocellulose, calcium carbide, calcium alloy); oxidizers and organic peroxides (potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, etc.); toxic chemicals (sodium cyanide, toluene diisocyanate)

My friend is always vague about where he exactly gets this information, but it's usually correct and if it's not he'll update me after the fact.

In this case he said he browsed a number of Chinese news reports and found at least one interview with factory workers and first responders about what was in the warehouse. The list above is pretty much an exact quote from what he sent me on Skype. I don't think it's complete but it should give you an idea of how stupid bad the safety here was.

It's not exactly a hobby but we both go pretty deep into some pretty obscure rabbit holes to find stuff like this and analyze it.
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[*] posted on 9-9-2015 at 14:49


I think trying to invoke a "fuel air explosive" effect is really reaching, and without any real support.

There are three separate explosions within about 4 seconds - a "small" initial one, the main explosion about 3 seconds later, and a secondary explosion intermediate between the first and second, within about a second of the main explosion.

I think they were just different batches of ammonium nitrate (and possibly other materials) exploding.
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[*] posted on 9-9-2015 at 17:58


FAE might be a strong word.

Basically what I think happened was that a flammable vapor (either the liquid natural gas or vapors from toluene, acetone, or MEK spread across the floor) was ignited, and that the fire that resulted was boosted by all the fun oxidizers present at the site plus a certain amount of oxygen in the air after a few seconds of being heated rather vigorously enough to decompose.

I'm not an expert, this was just the opinion I reached based on watching some footage with large, obvious and upward columns of flame. I've seen similar footage from a site in the middle east that was supposedly used to store and fuel liquid or solid rockets in some kind of underground ammo dump, right down to the columns of flame and small chunks of visibly burning metal.

for example, ball of flaming gasoline and then an actual FAE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dW1qkBg8sM

Obviously not the same as:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBH-S2F6ajY

But I think a significant component of at least one of the explosions was a flammable vapor suspended in air. It's not a true FAE so much as a really really big incendiary device. If there was AN present (which I have not heard an account of yet, only KNO3 and NaNO3) then it is plausible to me that that would be a huge contributor. But still, I think most of it was flammable liquid or gas. Just my two cents.


The thing that I'm really curious about was the reference to organic peroxides of some kind being stored in the warehouse. I know MEKP has some usage in epoxy hardening or some such, but they don't ever actually explicitly state what kind or how much of the stuff, nor what concentration.
Is it plausible that MEKP at 35% being heated very aggressively by a fire could explode?
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