Is Ammonium Nitrate Flammable? Exploring the Risks

The topic of flammability is one that is of great importance in many industries, from manufacturing to transportation to construction.

Understanding what materials are flammable and how they behave under certain conditions can be critical for ensuring safety and preventing accidents.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest and concern surrounding the flammability of ammonium nitrate, a common chemical compound used in a wide range of applications.

In this blog, we will explore the properties of ammonium nitrate and consider whether or not it is flammable.

What Is Ammonium Nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound that is commonly used as a fertilizer in agriculture, as well as in the production of explosives.

It is a white, crystalline solid that is highly soluble in water and can be easily synthesized by reacting ammonia with nitric acid.

Ammonium nitrate is rich in nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth and is often used as a source of nitrogen in fertilizers.

It is also highly reactive and can be used as an oxidizing agent in explosives.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Flammable?

No. Ammonium nitrate is not flammable. However, it can become explosive under certain conditions. This is because ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing agent, meaning that it can provide oxygen to fuel a fire. But in order for it to become explosive, it needs to be combined with a fuel source and exposed to heat or shock.

One of the most well-known incidents involving ammonium nitrate occurred in 1947 in Texas City, Texas.

A ship carrying approximately 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, killing over 500 people and injuring thousands more.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Flammable

The explosion was caused by a combination of factors, including other combustible materials on the ship and the heat generated by the fire.

Since that incident, regulations have been implemented to ensure that the transportation and storage of ammonium nitrate are done safely—for example, in the U.S.

Department of Transportation requires that any shipment of more than 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate be properly labeled and transported in accordance with specific regulations.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Toxic?

The answer to this question is not a straightforward one. Ammonium nitrate is not inherently toxic but can be dangerous under certain circumstances.

For example, when ammonium nitrate is heated, it can decompose and release toxic gases such as nitrogen oxides and ammonia. In high enough concentrations, these gases can harm humans and animals.

In addition to the potential for toxic gas release, ammonium nitrate can also be explosive. This is because it contains both a fuel component (nitrogen) and an oxidizer component (oxygen).

When ammonium nitrate is exposed to heat, shock, or friction, it can rapidly decompose, releasing a large amount of energy in the form of an explosion.

This occurred in the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, in August 2020.

However, it is important to note that not all ammonium nitrate is created equal. The purity and stability of the compound can vary depending on how it is manufactured and stored.

Industrial-grade ammonium nitrate, which is used in mining and construction, is typically more stable and less prone to decomposition than fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate, which is used in agriculture.

Additionally, adding certain stabilizing agents can further reduce the risk of decomposition and explosion.

Despite the potential dangers of ammonium nitrate, it is still widely used in various industries. In agriculture, it is a common component of fertilizers that are used to promote plant growth.

Mining and construction use it as an explosive to break up rock formations.

While handling ammonium nitrate carefully and following proper safety protocols is important, it is not inherently toxic and can be used safely when proper precautions are taken.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Explosive

The answer is yes but with some important caveats.

First, it’s important to understand what ammonium nitrate is and how it works. Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline substance that is commonly used as a fertilizer.

It is highly soluble in water, which makes it easy to use as a nutrient for plants. However, when ammonium nitrate is combined with certain other chemicals, it can become highly explosive.

This is because ammonium nitrate contains nitrogen and oxygen, which are two highly reactive elements.

When ammonium nitrate is heated or exposed to a flame, the nitrogen and oxygen atoms can combine to form nitrogen oxide gas. This gas can then react with other chemicals to form an explosive mixture.

However, it’s important to note that ammonium nitrate is not explosive on its own. It needs to be combined with other chemicals in order to create an explosive mixture.

This means that ammonium nitrate is not inherently dangerous, but it can be if it is not handled properly.

There have been several high-profile incidents involving ammonium nitrate in recent years.

One of the most notable was the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, in August 2020, caused by a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate that had been stored improperly for years.

Ammonium Nitrate Uses

Ammonium nitrate has several uses, including:

Fertilizer: Ammonium nitrate is a popular fertilizer due to its high nitrogen content. It is used to promote plant growth and increase crop yields.

Explosives: Ammonium nitrate is also used to produce explosives, such as dynamite and TNT. When mixed with fuel oil, it creates a powerful explosive mixture.

Cold packs: Ammonium nitrate is used in cold packs to provide instant relief for minor injuries, such as sprains and strains.

Airbags: Ammonium nitrate is used to inflate them rapidly in the event of a collision.

Food preservatives: Ammonium nitrate is used as a food preservative to prevent spoilage and extend the shelf life of certain foods.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Corrosive?

The answer is that it can be, but it depends on the conditions under which it is stored and used.

If ammonium nitrate is stored in a dry and cool environment and handled properly, it is unlikely to become corrosive.

However, if it is exposed to moisture or stored improperly, it can become corrosive and pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Ammonium nitrate is not considered to be corrosive in its pure form. This is because it is a stable compound that does not react with most materials.

However, when ammonium nitrate comes into contact with certain substances, it can become corrosive.

One of the main factors that can cause ammonium nitrate to become corrosive is moisture.

When ammonium nitrate is exposed to moisture, it can easily dissolve and release nitric acid, which is highly corrosive.

Nitric acid can corrode metal, concrete, and other materials and can also pose a hazard to human health if it comes into contact with skin or is inhaled.

Another factor contributing to ammonium nitrate’s corrosiveness is its concentration.

When ammonium nitrate is highly concentrated, it can be more reactive and more likely to cause corrosion.

This is why storing ammonium nitrate in a dry and cool environment is important to reduce the risk of corrosion.

Ignition Temperature Of Ammonium Nitrate

The ignition temperature of ammonium nitrate depends on various factors, including particle size, purity, and presence of impurities.

However, ammonium nitrate is generally not considered a highly flammable material and requires a high temperature to ignite.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the minimum ignition temperature of ammonium nitrate is approximately 410°C (770°F).

This means that ammonium nitrate will not ignite spontaneously or under normal conditions.

However, suppose it is exposed to a heat source above its ignition temperature. In that case, it can undergo a rapid exothermic decomposition, releasing large amounts of heat and gases, leading to an explosion.

It is important to note that ammonium nitrate can become more sensitive to ignition if it is contaminated with organic materials or exposed to certain chemicals or conditions.

For example, ammonium nitrate can react with fuel oils, metals, and other chemicals to form unstable compounds, increasing the risk of ignition and explosion.

Therefore, it is important to handle ammonium nitrate with care and follow proper safety precautions to prevent accidents.

Ammonium Nitrate Hazards

Ammonium nitrate can pose several hazards if not handled properly. Some of the main hazards associated with ammonium nitrate are:

Explosive: Under certain conditions, ammonium nitrate can become explosive. It is classified as a Class 1.1D explosive and is considered one of the most dangerous explosives.

Ammonium nitrate can be detonated by heat, shock, or friction and can cause significant damage to surrounding areas.

Fire hazard: Ammonium nitrate is a strong oxidizing agent that can enhance the combustion of other materials.

If exposed to fire or high temperatures, it can decompose and produce oxygen, accelerating the combustion process and resulting in an explosion.

Toxicity: Ammonium nitrate can release toxic gases such as nitrogen oxides when exposed to fire or high temperatures.

Nitrogen oxides are hazardous to human health and can cause respiratory problems, especially in people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Corrosive: Ammonium nitrate can corrode metals and other materials, particularly in the presence of moisture. This can result in damage to equipment, infrastructure, and other assets.

Environmental hazard: Ammonium nitrate can harm the environment if released into the air or water.

It can lead to the eutrophication of water bodies, which can result in oxygen depletion and harmful algae growth.

It is important to handle ammonium nitrate with caution and follow proper safety protocols to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of people and the environment.

Can A Spark Ignite Ammonium Nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound made up of ammonium and nitrate ions. It is commonly used as a fertilizer because it provides plants with nitrogen essential for growth. However, ammonium nitrate can also be used as an explosive. It can become highly explosive when mixed with a fuel source, such as diesel fuel.

The reason ammonium nitrate can be explosive is because of its chemical structure.

The nitrate ions in ammonium nitrate can release oxygen when they break down.

This oxygen can then react with the fuel source, rapidly releasing energy in heat and gas. This is what causes the explosion.

So, can a spark ignite ammonium nitrate?

The answer is yes, but it’s not quite that simple. A spark is essentially a small electrical discharge that produces heat and light.

When a spark comes into contact with ammonium nitrate, it can cause the nitrate ions to break down and release oxygen. This oxygen can then react with a fuel source, potentially causing an explosion.

Is Ammonium Nitrate Harmful To The Environment

Ammonium nitrate can be harmful to the environment if not handled properly.

One of the primary concerns is its potential to contribute to eutrophication, which is the excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants due to an overabundance of nutrients in bodies of water.

When ammonium nitrate is applied in excess to soil or crops, the excess nitrogen can leach into groundwater or run off into nearby bodies of water. This can cause an increase in nitrogen levels, leading to eutrophication.

Ammonium nitrate can also contribute to air pollution when used as a fertilizer or when it is released into the atmosphere through industrial processes or accidental spills.

When ammonium nitrate is exposed to high temperatures, it can decompose and release toxic gases such as nitrogen oxides, contributing to smog and acid rain.

In addition, ammonium nitrate is a potent greenhouse gas when it is released into the atmosphere.

It has been identified as a significant contributor to nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas approximately 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Overall, the environmental impact of ammonium nitrate largely depends on how it is used and handled.

Proper storage and application can help minimize its impact on the environment.

Is Ammonium Nitrate More Explosive Than Dynamite?

What is Ammonium Nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound that is commonly used in fertilizers, as well as in the production of explosives.

The compound is made up of a mixture of ammonium and nitrate ions, and it is highly soluble in water.

When ammonium nitrate is exposed to heat or a flame, it decomposes and releases nitrogen gas and water vapor.

This reaction is highly exothermic, meaning it releases a large amount of energy in heat.

What is Dynamite?

Dynamite is a high explosive that is made up of a mixture of nitroglycerin and a stabilizing agent, such as diatomaceous earth or sawdust.

Nitroglycerin is a highly unstable and sensitive explosive material that can be extremely dangerous.

However, it becomes much safer and easier to handle when mixed with a stabilizing agent.

Which is More Explosive?

Regarding explosive power, dynamite is generally considered more powerful than ammonium nitrate.

This is because dynamite contains a much higher concentration of explosive material than ammonium nitrate.

While ammonium nitrate can still be highly explosive under the right conditions, it is less powerful than dynamite.

However, some situations in which ammonium nitrate can be more dangerous than dynamite.

For example, when ammonium nitrate is stored in large quantities, it can become much more unstable and prone to detonation.

This happened in the 2015 explosion in Tianjin, China, caused by improper storage of large quantities of ammonium nitrate.

Is Ammonium Nitrate And Ammonia Are Same Thing

Ammonium nitrate and ammonia are not the same thing. While both substances contain nitrogen, they have different chemical structures and properties.

Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, with the chemical formula NH3. It is a colorless gas with a pungent odor commonly used to produce fertilizers, household cleaning products, and industrial chemicals.

On the other hand, ammonium nitrate is a compound made up of ammonium ions (NH4+) and nitrate ions (NO3-), with the chemical formula NH4NO3.

It is a white crystalline substance that is commonly used as a fertilizer and as an explosive in mining and construction.

Although both substances contain nitrogen and can be used as fertilizers, they have different chemical properties and uses. Handling and storing them carefully is important to prevent accidents and ensure their safe use.

Ammonium Nitrate Safety Precautions

Ammonium nitrate is a hazardous substance and should be handled with care. Here are some safety precautions to consider when handling ammonium nitrate:

Storage: Ammonium nitrate should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from other combustible materials.

It should be stored in a separate building or room away from other chemicals.

Transportation: Ammonium nitrate should be transported in a closed, properly labeled container. The vehicle used to transport ammonium nitrate should be clean, free of rust and any other corrosive material.

Handling: When handling ammonium nitrate, it is important to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, and a face mask.

Any spills should be cleaned up immediately using appropriate equipment.

Mixing: Ammonium nitrate should never be mixed with other combustible chemicals, particularly those. This can lead to an explosion.

Disposal: Ammonium nitrate should be disposed of by local, state, and federal regulations. It should not be disposed of in landfills or dumped in waterways.

Fire prevention: Ammonium nitrate should be kept from heat sources, sparks, and open flames. Smoking should be prohibited in areas where ammonium nitrate is stored or handled.

Emergency response: Emergency response personnel should be contacted immediately in case of an emergency, such as a spill or fire.


Ammonium nitrate is not classified as flammable but is an oxidizer that can contribute to fires and explosions under certain conditions.

It is important to handle ammonium nitrate cautiously and follow safety regulations to minimize the risk of accidents.