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ShotBored
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 06:18
What Happened in Beirut


I'm quite familiar with disasters of this type and the type of damage they can cause. Look no further than an almost identical incident in Texas City, Texas, USA in the mid 20th century. But we didnt have video accounts of what happened then like we do now.

I was completely and utterly shocked to my core about the violence of that explosion. When I first saw the video, I immediately (though irrationally) thought that THAT is what a small tactical nuclear device would look like. I'm very aware of the capability to mass detonate of ammonium nitrate under conditions like that. What I'm more curious about is what we saw in the 0.5-1 second before the explosion.

You might notice in the videos of the detonation that a few dozen milliseconds before the mass detonation, a cloud of red gas is released. I was really interested in what was in that gas that seemed to be the transitioning point for the supersonic detonation. Was it red fuming nitric acid or some nitrous oxides from the decomposing AN? Curious what other thoughts people had on this.

My thoughts are with the people in Lebanon. 300k+ homeless and a death toll that I'm sure will be dipping into the high hundreds, maybe even low thousands. Absolutely heartbreaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ9G8ne8NLE
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 06:59


A small tactical nuclear device would have a blast radius about 2-3x larger. But the explosion is kind of in the ballpark. That gas was probably nitrogen oxides. It looked to me as though there was a fire, followed by a small explosion, followed by an enormous blast. It is accepted that ammonium nitrate, stored at the port for six years, was the cause of the blast. What is not yet clear is how the ammonium nitrate was detonated. I've read reports that confiscated weapons were also stored at that port, and there are also reports that people saw and heard fireworks before the blast.
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 07:33


Am I the only one that noticed the color of the explosion cloud? It looked red to me.
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 07:38


Quote: Originally posted by Bmoore55  
Am I the only one that noticed the color of the explosion cloud? It looked red to me.


That is what we are curious about. I'd agree with @JJay that the clouds color was likely the release of nitrous oxides and nitric acid gas indicating the initial decomposition of the stored AN. From there there was no turning back from detonation, as the pressure dynamics would be moving towards supersonic reactions rates and subsequent detonation transition. It's just jaw-dropping to see how quickly that transition takes place.

I hope this grounds us and reminds us about ensuring proper storage of certain materials we work with, whether in the hobby or the professional realm.
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 07:51


Quote: Originally posted by ShotBored  
Quote: Originally posted by Bmoore55  
Am I the only one that noticed the color of the explosion cloud? It looked red to me.


That is what we are curious about. I'd agree with @JJay that the clouds color was likely the release of nitrous oxides and nitric acid gas indicating the initial decomposition of the stored AN. From there there was no turning back from detonation, as the pressure dynamics would be moving towards supersonic reactions rates and subsequent detonation transition. It's just jaw-dropping to see how quickly that transition takes place.

I hope this grounds us and reminds us about ensuring proper storage of certain materials we work with, whether in the hobby or the professional realm.


I agree, I have given my dad shit a few times for storing bleach and ammonia solution on the same shelf, I know risks are minimal and not explosive lile this, but it states on both jugs not to mix with the other. So storage should also be obvious. I keep all my chloride sources away from everything else.
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 11:14


A similar event:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_disaster

This happened a couple of times in history.
It seems that the dynamics change when large amounts (several tons) are handled.

Having a strong heat source makes it a whole lot easier, apparently they also stored vast amounts of fireworks nearby which led to the initial burn.
Still it sounds like a one in a million shot, a terrible one though.
Doing this on purpose might be really hard.


[Edited on 5-8-2020 by Belowzero]
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 11:57


Slow motion two angles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OvgHZM95C0

I also turned Youtube to .25 speed.

AN menting point 337.3°F 169.6°C

Big boiling mass of the stuff?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate_disasters

Saw alot of white hot mini explosions going on in the fire. Fireworks or electrical lines can't tell.

Maybe one of those white hot spots is what set it off.

How big a pile is 2750 Tons ?

Anyway this video is heartbreaking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it4_3DFL6gk





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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 13:16


Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Slow motion two angles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OvgHZM95C0

I also turned Youtube to .25 speed.

AN menting point 337.3°F 169.6°C

Big boiling mass of the stuff?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate_disasters

Saw alot of white hot mini explosions going on in the fire. Fireworks or electrical lines can't tell.

Maybe one of those white hot spots is what set it off.

How big a pile is 2750 Tons ?

Anyway this video is heartbreaking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it4_3DFL6gk






@pyro_cat The video you posted only further shows how powerful that shit is. Look at the shockwave on the ocean! My biggest concern is the state of what looks like that hotel that's right next to the explosion...hopefully most people were evacuated. I also feel my heart stop when I think of the first responders that were fighting the fire....

But yes, I agree with you about the flashes, I thought it had started as a fireworks/pyrotechnics fire, so that would support what we see there.

For comparison sake as far as how big of a pile 2750 tons is, this new US Navy ship is 3000 tons: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/uss-little-rock-new...

So the pile would probably be larger than if all the metal on the ship were melted into a pile just based off density differences. An insane perspective to think about....the thought of storing that much AN for 6 years in a busy port like that makes me shudder.
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 14:11


There is no way in knowing what the density of that ship is, it's probably classified, but I'm guessing it's below 1 (g/ml or kg/l).

The density of ammonium nitrate is known to be 1.7 and the prills come in at 1.3 therefore this pile(~2.5 million kilos), assuming prills is supposed to be just over 1900 m3, quite a large pile indeed. The ensuing BFRC is reported unofficially to be also because of the firric rich ground on the site. most (sub tonne) AN blasts appear more brownish in nature, not a deep red. A short YouTube search will show you what I mean.

Edit: added links and fixed spelling mistakes

[Edited on 5-8-2020 by Sigmatropic]
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 16:06




Video https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/noxious-orange-smoke-filmed-...

Nitric acid leak.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2950648/Toxic-orang...

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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 16:12


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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 16:29


Quote: Originally posted by Sigmatropic  
There is no way in knowing what the density of that ship is, it's probably classified, but I'm guessing it's below 1 (g/ml or kg/l).

The density of ammonium nitrate is known to be 1.7 and the prills come in at 1.3 therefore this pile(~2.5 million kilos), assuming prills is supposed to be just over 1900 m3, quite a large pile indeed. The ensuing BFRC is reported unofficially to be also because of the firric rich ground on the site. most (sub tonne) AN blasts appear more brownish in nature, not a deep red. A short YouTube search will show you what I mean.

Edit: added links and fixed spelling mistakes

[Edited on 5-8-2020 by Sigmatropic]


When I saw the news that color.

Someone forget to set up an ice bath in there ?

I suppose a shipping port could have decades of things like rusty anchor chain and iron junk as used as fill.

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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 17:14


Well that's what the pile looked like.



[img/]







[Edited on 6-8-2020 by Pyro_cat]
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 17:59


Close up video of the first explosion but I dont see how the person taking the video could have survived the second one https://twitter.com/i/status/1290726770459672576
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 19:01


That picture at the door is consistent with what I read about the warehouse door being worked on earlier that day.
Whether or not the AN went off first this explosion was waiting to happen. Could there maybe have been another warehouse nearby with military explosives (that the Lebanese govt might not be keen to publicise)?
The shock from the AN blast would presumably set of almost anything, whether it was stored well or not.


[Edited on 6-8-2020 by pantone159]
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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 21:49


Quote: Originally posted by pantone159  
That picture at the door is consistent with what I read about the warehouse door being worked on earlier that day.
Whether or not the AN went off first this explosion was waiting to happen. Could there maybe have been another warehouse nearby with military explosives (that the Lebanese govt might not be keen to publicise)?
The shock from the AN blast would presumably set of almost anything, whether it was stored well or not.


[Edited on 6-8-2020 by pantone159]


Official story might be true

Here is a a long study on AN they did alot of testing to figure out why this happens

https://www.osmre.gov/resources/blasting/docs/USBM/RI6773Exp...

This one is good too

https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-beirut...


They let it get all hard and crusted up that made it worse.

What an epic screw up leaving something that bad ass in a populated area.

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[*] posted on 5-8-2020 at 21:50


Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
much dark red at the top right, exactly!
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 05:26


Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Quote: Originally posted by pantone159  
That picture at the door is consistent with what I read about the warehouse door being worked on earlier that day.
Whether or not the AN went off first this explosion was waiting to happen. Could there maybe have been another warehouse nearby with military explosives (that the Lebanese govt might not be keen to publicise)?
The shock from the AN blast would presumably set of almost anything, whether it was stored well or not.


[Edited on 6-8-2020 by pantone159]


Official story might be true

Here is a a long study on AN they did alot of testing to figure out why this happens

https://www.osmre.gov/resources/blasting/docs/USBM/RI6773Exp...

This one is good too

https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-beirut...


They let it get all hard and crusted up that made it worse.

What an epic screw up leaving something that bad ass in a populated area.



@pyro_cat Some great expert commentary you posted here. I forgot about the fact that fusion from AN's hygroscopicity over time probably densified the material to a huge degree that would really amplify the shock transition/detonation violence. The pictures definitely support the formation of NOx products that give the cloud its red hue.

I've become slightly sympathetic to the port authorities over the days as it appears they tried regularly to get a judicial declaration that would allow them to get rid of the AN, but were never responded to. I'm sure they are going to be scapegoated regardless, but the judicial officials that ignored them should see their day in court too. The human blunder that caused this is so staggering.
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 09:40


Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Close up video of the first explosion but I dont see how the person taking the video could have survived the second one https://twitter.com/i/status/1290726770459672576


That had to just be some fireworks or something exploding before the AN, no way him and the phone would have survived that close.
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 10:20


Quote: Originally posted by Brightthermite  
Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Close up video of the first explosion but I dont see how the person taking the video could have survived the second one https://twitter.com/i/status/1290726770459672576


That had to just be some fireworks or something exploding before the AN, no way him and the phone would have survived that close.


He had time to run before the second. Lucky dude found a strong spot.


Check out this super slow motion. Throws a jet of material in one direction before the orange fireball.

I guess that silo deflected it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUUoCD3y6c4
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 10:27


Quote: Originally posted by Brightthermite  
Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Close up video of the first explosion but I dont see how the person taking the video could have survived the second one https://twitter.com/i/status/1290726770459672576


That had to just be some fireworks or something exploding before the AN, no way him and the phone would have survived that close.


That first explosion did not look like a firework at all. They were the normal white flashes.

The first real explosion that ended the video from the room full of AN was white-yellow and was so fast. Burned clean . What the heck was that?

Maybe this should just be left alone. World be a better place if everyone believes it was accident.

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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 10:33


Played it back frame by frame, sliding the view thing across. That yellow flash seems to look like that smoke cloud igniting.

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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 15:50






[Edited on 6-8-2020 by Chemetix]
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 21:12


We recently had a more recent explosion than texas city in the town of west, tx.
The fertilizer plant had improperly stored ammonium nitrate and a fire started, then the AN blew.

At the port of beruit, the warehouse was supposedly about a km from the nearest non-industrial building.
The explosion was actually larger than some tactical nukes based on the blast radius.
Reports are the blast radius was 6 miles or about 9km.

Yes, the cloud looks like nitrogen dioxide fumes.
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 22:01


Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Quote: Originally posted by Brightthermite  
Quote: Originally posted by Pyro_cat  
Close up video of the first explosion but I dont see how the person taking the video could have survived the second one https://twitter.com/i/status/1290726770459672576


That had to just be some fireworks or something exploding before the AN, no way him and the phone would have survived that close.


That first explosion did not look like a firework at all. They were the normal white flashes.

The first real explosion that ended the video from the room full of AN was white-yellow and was so fast. Burned clean . What the heck was that?

Maybe this should just be left alone. World be a better place if everyone believes it was accident.



the enthalpy of formation of AN is about -365kj/mol.
If we assume its decomposition products are mostly elemental nitrogen and oxygen (with only minimal Nox) and 2mol water(enthalpy of formation -285kj/mol), we get about 204kj/mol energy release. Ignoring the energy tied up in latent heat of evaporation of water, we get about 123 kj/mol of energy available for superheating the decomposition products. We're looking at 16 gm oxygen, 28gm nitrogen, and 36gm steam.
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/water-vapor-d_979.html
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/oxygen-d_978.html
https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/nitrogen-d_977.html

Using a value for heat capacity at 1000K, we get an energy requirement of very roughly 132 joules to heat the decomposition products from a single mol of AN by 1 C.
This suggests that the temperature of AN will increase by about 930C when it decomposes. Note that this is based on constant pressure conditions. If the reaction happens so quickly that the reaction products aren't able to expand initially (this is the case if it decided to det.) then their specific heatswill be constant volume instead of constant pressure, and the temperature will be somewhat higher. If it is stored near plastic, wood, aluminum, etc, those materials will be incinerated or pulverized almost instantly, and burn in the extremely hot dense 14%O2 fireball.

My point is, a temperature of 1000, conceivably even 2000C could exist in the fireball briefly, with just AN and ordinary debris from the containers. The whole thing looks like a kiloton amount of one of the weaker chemical HE,s. That's not something that could be easily done as a targeted attack. I believe the worlds largest airplane has a maximum *total* takeoff weight thats not quite a kiloton. And it certainly isn't nuclear.

For starters, here's a real time, similarly zoomed video of a low kiloton nuclear burst:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZjWFpbGQmk

Note that you don't get a clear view of the expanding fireball in the first few frames, it's smaller, hotter, presumably less dense, and washes out most of the film with its light. After it has stopped expanding and risen off the ground, (corresponding to the stage at Beirut where the fireball was no longer luminescent) the nuclear fireball is still lighting up the area around its base and is overpowering the ambient daylight. This is 1.2kT, a multi megaton fireball might be white-yellow hot a minute after initiation.

Don't even get me started on initial radiation and fallout contamination. If a low kiloton nuclear device had gone off on that peninsula, we'd have somewhere between a few thousand and a few tens of thousand cases of radiation sickness (many fatal) flooding every hospital in beirut. I'll try to find a fallout and prompt radiaton report for that 1.2kt burst,but for now you cand do a rough simulation on NukeMap.





I now have a YouTube channel. So far just electronics and basic High Voltage experimentation, but I'll hopefully have some chemistry videos soon.
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