Latviski English По-русски
Wednesday 17.01.2018 | Name days: Tenis, Dravis

Fertilizers transforming into explosives

(+1 rating, 1 votes)

September 1, 2011, the portal of Austrian news agency BNN (Baltic News Network) GmbH published a press release “STORAGE AND HANDLING OF AMMONIUM SALTPETER OF ALL KINDS IN RIGA FREE PORT – A TICKING TIME BOMB.” Today we start publishing a journalistic research project on the subject.

Part one.


Decision taken in 370 seconds

July 26, 2011, Riga City Council members decided “On agreement regarding construction of handling and short-term storage terminal of mineral fertilizers in Kundziņsala”. The inspiring report by Andis Cinis, the Head of Riga City Construction Board, lasted for 2 minutes and 18 seconds, while only Dainis Stalts from “Democratic Patriots” wanted to say something in the so-called debate announced by Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs. During Stalts 1 minute and 3 seconds long speech, he claimed that all members of the Committee of City Development approve of the terminal construction. He also said that Riga Free Port has to develop and that inhabitants of Kundziņsala yearn for the “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” as well. However, he added that the health of the people is the top priority.

The discussion was followed by a 15 seconds long voting, with 49 of 60 deputies of the Riga City Council being present. 45 of them voted for construction of the new terminal, three abstained, with only one person voting against. The whole decision-taking process took 6 minutes and 10 seconds. Quite fast, right? But why should they hesitate if two weeks before the meeting, the public relations officer Viktors Daugmalis informed the news agency BND that the new terminal would bring the city 30 000 lats in taxes (real estate tax and land tax) yearly. Re-loading and storage of mineral fertilizers is expected to boost capital of the city by 1.4 million lats each year. Annual 20 million lats would also go to the state budget of Latvia. Moreover, 150 new jobs make the planned income even more significant. Construction costs total 70 million dollars (more than 34 million lats). 51% of the new company would belong to the Russian holding “Uralhim” («Уралхим») and 49% – to the Latvian company SIA „Rīgas tirdzniecības osta”. Thus, the necessary votes were collected easily. Now we know the price of the issue. Let’s keep it in mind in order to return to it in further parts of our research.

What is in store for Riga?

Riga City Council has approved 2 000 000 tons of mineral fertilizers being re-loaded and transported via the city center yearly. In terms of proportions, 350 000 tons go for diammonium phosphate, 600 000 tons – for carbamide and 1 050 000 tons – for ammonium saltpeter of three kinds. Ammonium saltpeter cargoes will make up 52.5% of the whole terminal capacity. In addition, it is allowed to store 40 000 tons of diammonium phosphate, 50 000 tons of carbamide and 90 000 of ammonium saltpeter. It is also planned to build 8 warehouses – six with the total space of 25 000 cubic meters and two – 15 000 cubic meters. This means the terminal will be able to receive as many as 180 000 tons of fertilizers at once. The warehouses would look similar to these:

Length of the ferry showed in the picture and length of the tow can be up to 195 m, width – up to 22 m, draught – up to 13 meters and the load capacity - 58 000 tons of mineral fertilizers. The view would entertain inhabitants of Kundziņsala every 10 days.

Mineral fertilizers will arrive to the terminal by rail from the train station “Šķirotava” via Ķengarags, “Zemitāni” under the VEF bridge and from “Brasa” to Sarkandaugava, where it would enter “Riga – Preču” train station and then travel directly to Kundziņsala. Capacity of a single wagon is estimated to hit 65 tons of mineral fertilizers. 60 wagons in total are expected to make up a single freight train. Moreover, 512 trains of maximum load capacity are needed to deliver 2 000 000 tons of mineral fertilizers. It means 1-2 trains with 3900-7800 tons of mineral fertilizers would run via Riga daily. Starting from here we are going to analyze only the notorious ammonium saltpeter.

The map of Kundziņsala

Here it is – the irregular almost rectangle area for re-loading and storage of ammonium saltpeter in the Northern part of the island. And what a great neighbour it has! There is only 600 m distance to the Voleri borough located on the left bank of the River Daugava. Add some 100 meters more and you will reach „Baltic Container Terminal”. This terminal is allowed to handle all dangerous cargoes, except for radioactive and bacteriological products. In a 1 km distance, there is Vecmīlgrāvis, the housing area of Kundziņsala, while Tvaika and Ezera Streets are located in a 1.5 km distance. More or less the same distance also separates the new terminal and the one for“Latvijas propāna gāze”, which manages depositories of liquefied gas – 175 cubic meters each. Terminal for re-loading of oil products –“Woodison terminal” is also near. In 300 meters, there is another similar terminal “Man-Tess”. And the fact that overnight from July 22 and July 23, 2009, 17 tons of hydrogen cyanide leaked from the terminal seems to be a “usual thing” here – just as Karlsson used to say to the Little Brother. In addition, the rescue team learnt about the accident only in the morning. 1ml/g of hydrogen cyanide is a lethal dose (LD) for a human being. At that time, hundreds of people were evacuated not only from Kundziņsala, but also from Voleri and Krēmeri, other nearby territories. As a result, swimming and fishing were banned in the River Daugava.

But don’t worry! According to Riga City Council’s decision, the terminal with the enormous volume of ammonium saltpeter is absolutely safe in any catastrophes that could strike gas and oil terminals.

Ammonium saltpeter and terrorism threat

Ammonium saltpeter aka ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound NH4NO3, a nitric acid salt. Johann Rudolf Glauber, German doctor and alchemist, was the first to obtain it back in 1659. Afterwards people were using it as an agricultural fertilizer for centuries. However, in the 20th century new “alchemists” appeared. They mixed saltpeter with diesel fuel and obtained ANFO – an explosive used in mining and construction industry. Efficiency of ANFO explosion equals to 80% of trinitrotoluol. Add some 15% of tolite and 4.5% of aluminum powder to 80.5% of ammonium saltpeter and you will obtain tolite.

Wise terrorists go even further and make the whole process cheaper – they substitute tolite with coal, while ammonium saltpeter still remains the main component. It is widely used in many occasions, starting from self-made large-scale bombs to waist belts of Shahids. Ammonium saltpeter is used as an explosive all over the world – from USA to India and the Philippines.

Most terrible terrorist attacks before September 11 events hit the Oklahoma City in 1995. The attack was aimed at a building hosting public administration offices – the Office controlling the law of spirits, tobacco, weapons and explosives, FBI, Office of anti-drugs, USA Secret Service and the USA Marshall Service. A mined car full with nearly 2.5 tons of ammonium saltpeter exploded near it.

2.3 tons of trinitrotoluol ensured the huge explosion. People say it was possible to hear it in a 90 km distance. Meanwhile seismographs located 7 km from the epicenter fixed 3 balls according to Richter’s Scale. The explosion left a natural 9m wide and 2.4m deep crater. The total death toll hit 169 persons, including 19 children, with more than 680 persons injured. 324 buildings in a radius of 16 blocks where destroyed or seriously damaged, windows shattered in the radius of 4.5 km and 86 cars were no longer drivable. Total damages were estimated to hit around 652 million USD.

This is what 2.5 tons of ammonium saltpeter left from the Oklahoma City.

Nevertheless, the American tragedy is no phenomenon at all. On July 13, 2011, the Turkish newspaper “Milliyet” announced that the Secret Service had arrested 14 members of the terrorist organization “Al Qaeda”. The grouping was ready to revenge for the death of bin Laden. American soldiers and diplomats were chosen as the target. To demonstrate their hate, the terrorists used explosives made of 700 kg ammonium saltpeter. It is the same substance that was also used by terrorists in Istanbul back in 2003, leaving 60 persons dead and numerous badly injured.

Norway was about to face what was not rounded up in Turkey. In late July, 2011, a terrorist named Andres Bering Breivik blew up a building in the governmental block in Oslo with a bomb made on the basis of ammonium saltpeter and diesel fuel. 8 persons were killed and 15 injured.

Saltpeter was also purchased by a terrorist in Poland.

Governmental building in the capital of Norway after the explosion.

However, ammonium saltpeter is used for such purposes not only in countries far away from Latvia. It was also used in explosions in Moscow subway and the airport, on Pushkin’s Square as well as in the train accident near St. Petersburg. This month, the Russian Secret Service detained members of the terrorist organization “Imarat Kavkaz” in the territory of Bashkiristan. They had made bombs of ammonium saltpeter to blow up a police office building in the Oktyabrskij city and cars of those involved in anti-extremism. A bomb equivalent to 100 kg of tolite was neutralized in Hasaviurt, a city in Daghestan.

This car full with saltpeter was parked near a major shopping centre “Kirgu”.

The detained North- Caucasian terrorists confessed that they had been up to put the explosive in the way of high-speed Moscow – St. Petersburg train. It was possible to purchase ammonium saltpeter on a regular market of industrial goods.

Tomorrow, September 6, 2011, the news agency BNN GmbH will publish continuation of the research divided into the following sections:

= Ammonium saltpeter and incidents;

= Ammonium saltpeter and power here and there;

= There are questions but no answers.

Leave a reply

  1. Vilks says:

    Looks like massive explosion expects Riga. Are policy makers really ready to take a responsibility like that??? Seems that they are not sane..

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Christopher says:

    I had never thought mineral fertilisers can be THAT dangerous…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. not important says:

    Riga City Council – where “amazing” happens
    “amazing” = sh@$

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Mass protests in Greece do not hold back new bailout reforms

The parliament of Greece has adopted a large set of reforms pushed for by international creditors in return for more bailout money, despite approximately 20 000 people protesting outside the parliament and brief clashes with riot police breaking out.

Foster families in Latvia to receive larger benefits

Municipal administrations have a duty to pay larger benefits for child care when children are put in foster families, Latvian Welfare Ministry reports.

Government plans to improve anti-doping measures in Latvia

During a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, a legislative draft developed by Healthcare Ministry on adding changes to the Sports Law for the improvement the country’s anti-doping measures was approved.

Only 12% of workers know their organization’s IT security policy

Businesses around the world still suffer from a catastrophically low level of awareness for IT matters, according to a study performed by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International.

Parents let children on ice in spite of temporary restriction

On Sunday, 14 January, officers of Riga Municipal Police observed with video-recording equipment how two people were skating on the surface of Victory Park’s pond. Because it is banned for people to remain on ice of large bodies of water in Riga, officers were sent in.

Czech President to be determined in duel between Zeman and Drahoš

In the Czech presidential election, no candidate has garnered a half of the votes and its result will be determined in a run-off between the current eursceptic President and a pro-European academic.

Aldaris: non-alcoholic beer market in Latvia grew 9% in 2017

Aldaris concluded 2017 with a significant increase in their non-alcoholic beer category of products. Demand for non-alcoholic beer has increased across all of Latvia – market growth was 9% in 2017, as reported by the company’s representatives.

Politician reports meddling with e-health system; prime minister parries

Last Thursday, 11 January, e-health system ‘suffered malfunctions’, which suggests that it may have been hacked, Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee head Aija Barča mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Pension fund cautious about 500-million-euro bridge project to Saaremaa

Commenting on the idea that Estonian pension funds could invest into the ambitious project of building a bridge from mainland Estonia to the country’s largest island, Swedish Swedbank has expressed caution.

Study: more than half of Latvians do not trust other people

52% of Latvian residents believe most people cannot be trusted. Only 5% of residents are ready to trust their fellow man. Less than one-fifth of Latvian residents trust decision-makers, according to results of a study performed by SKDS.

Economic expert: 2018 expected to be good for investors

«This year promises to be good for investors, because global economy is on a rise and profits of businesses have a tendency to grow,» says Luminor economic expert Gints Belēvičs.

Estonia counts more residents for 3rd consecutive year

Registering an increase in the Estonian population for the third consecutive year, Estonian statisticians have estimated that the population has increased by 3,070 people to 1,318,700 residents. They have also warned that this is preliminary data, which could still change considerably as unregistered immigration has not been included.

Russian school struck by teenager knife attack

In a knife attack on a school in Perm, Russia, eleven children and a teacher have suffered injuries.

NA: city council has to consider new partnership approach for Agenskalns market

Riga City Council members have to decide what is more important for Agenskalns market’s development: rate or quality. There are two options: force a closed market development with an auction of long-term lease or consider public private partnership option. Such a proposal was submitted to Riga City Council’s City Property Committee by the faction of the National Alliance.

Romania Prime Minister changed, second since June

Romanian head of government Mihai Tudose has lost the support of his own Social Democratic Party becoming the second Romanian Prime Minister to lose the seat in seven months.

Moderately rapid export rise recorded in Latvia in January-November period

Compared with the previous year’s period, a moderately rapid export growth was recorded in Latvia in the January-November period of 2017 when compared with other EU member states, according to data published by Eurostat.

Japanese R&I upgrades Latvia’s credit rating to A-

Japanese Rating and Investment Information, Inc. (R&I) has announced its decision to upgrade Latvia’s rating from BBB+ to A- with a stable outlook, as reported by Latvian State Treasury.

KVV Liepājas metalurgs to be auctioned off

Insolvency administrator to the bankrupt KVV Liepājas metalurgs Guntars Koris has decided to sell property owned by the company at an auction, as confirmed by the administrator’s representative Dzintars Hmieļevskis.

Port turnover of Latvia’s neighbours up 9%; Latvia suffers 2% decline

«Total turnover of Russian ports has grown to 787 million tonnes, according to data from Russian Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport. Compared with 2016, stevedores of Latvia’s neighbouring countries serviced 7.2% more liquid cargoes, with their volume reaching 414 million tonnes. The total volume of bulk cargoes, on the other hand, has increased by 11.1%, and now reaches 373 million tonnes,» as reported by Dienas Bizness journalist Egons Mudulis.

Greek transport strike seeks to safeguard right to call strikes

A scope of Greek public transport services drew to a halt on the opening day of the week as public transport workers and air traffic controllers engaged in a strike to protest against what they see as attempts to limit they right to hold strikes.

Olaine prison to have a new training centre for correctional service personnel

On 15th and 16th January, Justice Ministry will organize a meeting for the Norwegian finance instrument’s 2014-2021 planning period. During this period, officials will discuss the progress of the Improved correctional services system. As part of this programme, it is planned to build a new training centre in Olaine prison for correctional service personnel, as reported by the ministry.

Estonia's new road tax payment criticised by road hauliers

As the new road tax has entered into force in Estonia in 2018, the country's Association of Estonian International Road Carriers has commented after the first two weeks of its implementation that a key problem is that the state has not granted truck drivers the possibility to pay the road tax at gas stations in addition to the existing way paying the tax online.

Marriott International hotel network enters Latvia’s market

Albert Hotel will be closed down for renovations on Monday, 15 January. It will be reopened in 2019 as AC Hotel Riga part of Marriorr Group. The new Marriott hotel in Latvia will be managed by Legendhotels, as BNN was told by the company.

NP: Reizniece-Ozola and Kučinskis are proud of tax reform, businessmen are not

Latvia’s tax system underwent serious reforms before the country entered 2018. Until now officials only mentioned the benefits – businessmen will no longer have to pay tax for profits if they reinvest money in business development, the majority of small wage recipients will become several dozen euros richer. However, businessmen are generally dissatisfied with the reform, Nekā personīga reports.

Ilves suggests creation of world cyber-security alliance beyond NATO

Former Estonian President, cyber-security activist Toomas Hendrik Ilves has noted that world's democratic countries, starting from NATO, should form a common cyber security organisation.

Would you be ready to boycott something in your life?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Polls Archive

Category feed: Feed: