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My main purpose in writing this book is to save lives and to prevent accidents by improving safety in all operations involving ammonium nitrate and ammonium-based products worldwide. Towards this end, I have attempted to improve the understanding of AN hazards and compliance with good safety practices amongst all stakeholders. 

Ammonium nitrate (AN) consists of a simple chemical formula but exhibits highly complex physical and chemical properties. It has numerous beneficial applications, for example as a fertilizer and as a safe explosive, yet it has a troublesome safety record.  These contrasting properties have fascinated me, and presented me with many intellectual and practical challenges during my career.  

Over the course of more than thirty years’ employment at world leading producers of ammonium nitrate-based products, followed by approaching two decades of consultancy work, I have come to be regarded as a leading international expert on AN safety.  I have had the pleasure of representing the fertilizer industry at the United Nations’ relevant committees of experts on the transport of dangerous goods for many years, and have been honoured to receive an MBE from HM Queen Elizabeth for my contribution to the field of safety in the fertilizer industry.  

I often recall this important safety message conveyed by Professor Trevor Kletz, the world famous safety guru: ‘organisations have no memory’.  So often lessons of the past are lost, resulting in safety being put at risk. The purpose of this book was to consolidate advanced expertise and practically relevant literature published over the last century, supplemented with my own observations, experience and analysis, to provide an accessible resource of reliable and practical information on hazardous behaviour of AN-based products and corresponding safety implications.  Numerous past accidents have been reviewed in this book to remind us of the lessons learnt and their safety messages.

This book has been written with both young engineers and experienced practitioners in mind.  I have been privileged over the course of my career to meet and work with experts from a very wide spectrum of professions and organisations, including regulatory bodies, research organisations, academia and the legal profession.  In this work, I have also attempted to address some of the many interesting questions or issues which they have raised.  I therefore hope that this book will be valuable to all AN-related industry sectors, particularly AN-based fertilizer and explosives, as well as to professionals outside the immediate AN industry.  

I sincerely hope that this book will serve the purpose of improving safety in all operations involving AN and AN based products worldwide.

Kish Shah

Yarm, August 2022

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