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Explosives that contain highly refined oil with a low sulphur and aromatic content generate lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The history of explosives is a very long one. It began with black powder in China in the 9th century, but there was then quite a gap until the 19th century before Alfred Nobel introduced dynamite. Dynamite has now been replaced by safer, more modern explosives. One of these is ANFO, which was developed in the 1950s.
ANFO, which is a blend of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, is easy to manufacture, handle and load. The problem is that it is sensitive to moisture, and for this reason the market for explosives is now dominated by various kinds of ammonium nitrate-based emulsion explosives.
As an emulsion is water-based, the problem of sensitivity to moisture disappears. Furthermore, it is not explosive, which means that the explosive can be manufactured in situ when it is to be used.
Reducing the environmental impact is a priority area for leading manufacturers of industrial explosives. In this context, the increase in emulsions has had a positive impact. Emulsions generate lower emissions, are cleaner and create less leakage to the groundwater thanks to their resistance to water.
Emulsions also produce better detonation properties than ANFO, which reduces the concentration of gases hazardous to the environment and human health. An explosion that is not perfect generates toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, in addition to nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water.
The most effective way for manufacturers of explosives to reduce their environmental impact is by replacing the diesel fuel that is commonly used with a highly refined oil that has a low sulphur and aromatic content.
“This is an area where Nynas is leading the way,” says Ghislain de Quatrebarbes, Market Manager Nynas Naphthenics CMI. “Our products NYFLEX® 8120 and NYTEX® 8120 offer the right viscosity range suitable for the production of ANFO.”
The benefits compared with using diesel fuel include a higher flash point, lower volatility and fewer odour-related problems.
But above all, Nynas oils generate lower emissions of exhaust gases to the environment. The use of a more highly refined oil also improves the work environment, as you avoid the fumes generated from diesel in connection with the handling and charging of ANFO.
And when it comes to emulsions?
“The inherent high density level of Nynas naphthenic oils contributes to a more stable emulsion, improved long-term storage stability and the strength to withstand harsh transportation conditions compared with paraffin oils. This produces both financial and environmental benefits.”
In other words, thanks to the fact that Nynas' alternatives for the production of explosives – NYFLEX and NYTEX – are so highly refined, there is a reduction in gas emissions in both ANFO and emulsion formulations.
“They also significantly increase the shelf life, which is particularly important in the case of cartridge packaging,” concludes Ghislain de Quatrebarbes.