Security Concerns Grow With Manipulation of Nitrate Fertilizers
Honeywell isn't waiting. The company recently introduced a new nitrogen formulation and an agreement with J.R. Simplot Company to produce it. The two are building a facility to produce Honeywell's Sulf-N 26, which Simplot will operate and for which it will have exclusive distribution rights in the western U.S.
Sulf-N 26 is a dry, granular, ammonium sulfate nitrate fertilizer that has been granted SAFETY Act (Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies) designation by the DHS. With this designation comes liability protection and other incentives. The process chemically fuses ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate to produce a new, highly stable molecule 26-0-0 14S. Agronomic tests have found it to be safe and effective for agricultural use, compatible with other fertilizers in blends and safe to transport, handle and store. Honeywell reported that testing under DHS guidance along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, "demonstrated significantly less or, in some cases, no explosive power, when compared to traditional nitrate-based fertilizers.
"We believe that in order to take the next steps toward reducing the risks of ammonium nitrate, one must move beyond simple content thresholds and investigate safer, alternative technologies, such as Sulf-N 26," said Deborah Patterson, business director, Sulf-N 26, Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. "Sulf-N 26 is a new molecule, not simply a blending of ingredients, and therefore cannot be physically separated. As with other molecules, attempting to chemically modify Sulf-N 26 requires advanced skills and knowledge, including a well-equipped lab and advanced chemicals."
Although the proposed DHS rule on the manufacture and sale of ammonium nitrate would regulate the manufacture and sale of any fertilizer containing more than 30 percent ammonium nitrate, Patterson reported that the company doesn't expect Sulf-N 26 to be regulated under the proposed rule. The final product has less than 5 percent free ammonium nitrate.
INVOLVING THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY
New products or old, regulated or unregulated, the key to security and reducing the risk of misuse of nitrate fertilizer products today, rests in large part with the distribution system. It is a responsibility that Mathers and Guffain indicate the fertilizer industry takes seriously and can help carry out by following common sense, even as official rules are still being developed.
"Know your customers, keep records of sales, don't sell to people wanting small amounts and wanting to pick it up in a pickup truck," said Guffain. "We introduced the Be Aware program after the Oklahoma City bombing, and America’s Security Begins With You started after 9/11. These programs have served America well. We may well need to renew our emphasis on them and keep reminding ourselves that we still have a problem and need to remember our security protocols."
This article is brought to you in cooperation with the National Agronomic Environmental Health and Safety School (NAEHSS).