The explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas raises questions about the safety of Iowa’s fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia facilities.
Although, the cause of the Texas explosion is still under investigation, anytime anhydrous ammonia is involved there is a potential for danger.
Mark Hanna is an Agriculture Engineer with Iowa State University and works with anhydrous ammonia equipment.
Iowa only has one anhydrous ammonia production facility in Creston, but farmers in the state use one-billion pounds of nitrogen as anhydrous ammonia every year.
Hanna said usually the biggest concern comes from an anhydrous ammonia leak.
He said an explosion would be very rare but is possible.
For that to occur, several conditions have to line up just right.
“Anhydrous ammonia ordinarily we don`t think about it being flammable but if you get just the right vapor concentration and you have a strong ignition source like a fire around it then it can explode,” says Hanna.
Two larger plants are being built in Sioux City, in northwest Iowa and in Lee County in southeast Iowa.