Ammonium Nitrate Rules Amended

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    In News

    • Recently, the government has amended rules for storage and handling of ammonium nitrate to improve public safety.

    About

    • The Ministry of Commerce and Industry on August 31, 2021 has issued the Ammonium Nitrate (Amendment) Rules, 2021 to further amend the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012. 
    • These rules have been amended from the lesson learnt from the Beirut Explosion in 2020. Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at Beirut’s port for six years that detonated in 2020, wreaking death and destruction.

    Amendment Rules

    • Ammonium Nitrate Amendment Rules:
      • Storage: 
        • The rules require that ammonium nitrate received at ports be transferred to storage houses 500 metres beyond the port area.
      • Auction: 
        • The rules also permit the auction of seized lots of ammonium nitrate to ensure safe and speedy disposal besides requiring that Ammonium Nitrate be imported in bagged form only.
      • Emergency provisions:
        • Provision for adequate fire fighting facilities in storage and handling areas, improvement of flooring.
      • Ease of Doing Business: 
        • To promote ease of doing business, the transfer of ammonium nitrate from one location to another of the same licensee has been permitted now. 
      • Disposal of NOC:
        • The time for disposal (including enquiry, decision to grant or refuse) of the application for seeking ‘No Objection Certificate’ from District Authority or Director General of Mine Safety has been reduced from six months to three months. 
      • Inspection:
        • The Executive Magistrates or Police Officers authorised shall carry out inspection of the licensed premises located within their jurisdiction once in six months in order to ascertain if there has been any violation of the Act or the rules thereof.
    • Rules for static and mobile pressure vessels:
      • Oxygen production capacity enhanced:
        • Allow transportation of cryogenic compressed gases such as oxygen, argon, nitrogen, LNG etc. through ISO containers in domestic areas.
        • Production capacity for liquid oxygen, which was found to be in short supply in various hospitals during the second wave of Covid, had increased to about 8,000 tonnes per day from about 6,000 tonnes per day last year.
      • Inspection:
        • concept of ‘third-party inspection agency’ introduced to carry out the work related to certification, testing, inspection and safety audit of the licensed premises.

    Significance of Amendment

    • The government has amended rules to improve public safety, including requiring fire fighting facilities.
    • It is done to prevent the explosions that can be caused by the storage and handling of ammonium nitrate.

    Global Regulations

    • It is classified as an oxidising content (Grade 5.1) under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods.
    • The United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods categorizes the types of dangerous goods, under nine classes like Explosive Materials, Inflammable liquids, Easily oxidising contents etc.

    Indian Regulations

    • In India, the manufacture, conversion, bagging, import, export, transport, possession for sale or use of ammonium nitrate is covered under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012.
    • Storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas is illegal in India.
    • For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an Industrial licence is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1951.
    • A license under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 is also required for any activity related to ammonium nitrate.

    Conclusion

    • The amendments include provision for adequate fire-fighting facilities in storage and handling areas.
    • This will ensure public safety by safe handling of ammonium nitrate and will prevent any disastrous event such as the Beirut Blast.

    Ammonium Nitrate

    • Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a crystal-like white solid which is made in large industrial quantities. 
    • It is synthetic, made by reacting ammonia with nitric acid.
    • Use: Its biggest use is as a source of nitrogen for fertiliser, but it is also used to create explosives for mining.
    • How dangerous is ammonium nitrate?
      • On its own, ammonium nitrate is relatively safe to handle.
      • However, if you have a large amount of material lying around for a long time it begins to decay.
      • The real problem is that over time it will absorb little bits of moisture and it eventually turns into an enormous rock. 
      • This makes it more dangerous because if a fire reaches it, the chemical reaction will be much more intense.
    • How dangerous are the gases produced?
      • When ammonium nitrate explodes, it can release toxic gases including nitrogen oxides and ammonia gas.
      • The orange plume is caused by the nitrogen dioxide, which is often associated with air pollution.
      • If there isn’t much wind, it could become a danger to the people nearby.
    • Is it used in bombs and explosives?
      • For Ammonium nitrate to be explosive, a primary explosive or detonator like RDX or TNT is required.
      • With such a powerful blast, ammonium nitrate has been used by armies around the world as an explosive.
        • It has also been used in several terrorist acts, including the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. 
      • It is the main component of the explosive composition known as ANFO- Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil.
      • Many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by terrorists around the world have ANFO as the main explosive.

    Source: IE