April 21, 2017 | Barb Carr

Remembering an Accident: Oppau Explosion in Germany

The explosion occurred September 21, 1921, when a silo that was storing 4,500 tonnes of an ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixture exploded at the Oppau plant in Germany. It killed between 500 – 600 people and there were about 2,000+ people who were injured. The blast was felt for miles, damaging the factory and the surrounding community.

What Happened? 

In 1911 the plant was producing ammonium sulfate when Germany was unable to obtain the necessary sulfur during WWI. It was also producing ammonium nitrate during the same time period. The combination of the two plus the pressure of its own weight, turned the mixture into a plaster-like substance.

The workers had to take pickaxes to remove the plaster-like substance from inside the silos. To make their work easier the workers took small charges of dynamite to loosen the mixture. Before the explosion happened it was estimated that there where as many as 20,000 firings before that fatal day. It is now a well known fact that ammonium nitrate is highly explosive even when mixed, due to this tragic incident.

To read more about this tragic accident please click on the link below.


To find out how to find and fix root causes at your facility to avoid disasters large and small, visit:


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