Originally published May 25, 2023 2:00 pm PDT
In a shocking development, a railcar transporting a 30-ton shipment of ammonium nitrate vanished en route from Wyoming to California, according to KQED.
Ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in the production of both fertilizers and explosives, disappeared from the railcar, causing significant concern among officials who are now investigating the occurrence.
The railcar, managed by Union Pacific, left Cheyenne, Wyoming, on April 12 loaded with 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate sourced from explosives manufacturing company, Dyno Nobel, KQED reported, citing the company’s incident report.
Alarmingly, the railcar arrived two weeks later at a Mojave Desert rail stop, completely void of its cargo.
Ammonium nitrate has several applications, including its use as an agricultural fertilizer, in the creation of first aid products like cold packs, and in explosives utilized by the mining and construction sectors, as noted by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Notably, it was also the primary explosive component in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terror attack in US history at that time.
The National Fire Protection Association warns that while ammonium nitrate could exacerbate fires and explosions, it requires an additional destabilizing element to pose a “significant explosive threat,” the outlet noted.
Representatives from Dyno Nobel have speculated that the ammonium nitrate pellets might have accidentally fallen from the covered hopper car during transit, a transport method similar to that employed for coal.
A spokesperson for the company stated to KQED, “The railcar was sealed when it left the Cheyenne facility, and the seals were still intact when it arrived in Saltdale. The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the railcar may have developed in transit.”
Union Pacific, the rail transportation provider, stated to Insider that it is in the “early stages” of investigating this freight loss.
The company noted, “The fertilizer is designed for ground application and quick soil absorption. If the loss resulted from a rail car leak over the course of transportation from origin to destination, the release should pose no risk to public health or the environment.”
They further clarified that there is no current belief of any “criminal or malicious activity involved.”
The Federal Railroad Administration is also scrutinizing whether there were any federal violations committed by the railroad or shipper under the regulatory authority of the Department of Transportation.
In response to the incident, Dyno Nobel admitted to KQED it had “limited control” over the railcar while in transit and shared plans to return it to Wyoming for inspection.
The company assured it would take necessary measures to avoid such instances in the future.
The incident is also under the review of the California Public Utilities Commission, as told to KQED.