Propane Cylinders + Anhydrous Ammonia = Trouble (and we mean big)

Date Posted
George Davis
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Though handling propane cylinders can be as common as having the actual cylinders in your own backyard, extra caution is still advisable. Propane cylinders are still highly explosive when not operated or disposed of properly. Now we don’t want to scare you; but if you’re reading this and you own a propane service company (or you work for one), then it is for all of us to realize that when it comes to propane—it is always better to be safe than sorry.

It is vital for us, here in Safety Services Company, to be updated and to get you informed with the latest on safety and health in the workplace. Concerning propane safety, it has come to our knowledge that the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) has issued a new safety alert on this gas.

The alert, posted early this month in OSHA’s e-news memo QuickTakes (01 July 2008, Volume 7, Issue 13), deals with the hazards of propane cylinders being used alongside anhydrous ammonia in methamphetamine laboratories. According to the OSHA article, when the brass valve of a propane cylinder comes into contact with the ammonia, the valve deteriorates and is eventually damaged. As a result of this damage, a violent and unexpected expulsion of the cylinder valve is very likely to take place. This event is highly injurious and deadly.

If you are in the business of propane, you may already know what there is to know about this gas, most especially when it comes to safety and health concerns. But propane and its chemical reaction to ammonia may somewhat be unfamiliar to you. The following is just a quick backgrounder on the compound Ammonia.

Ammonia is both caustic and hazardous.In its commercial use, it is in the form of anhydrous ammonia. This only means that water is absent in the substance. Anhydrous ammonia is also classified as toxic (T) as well as dangerous for the environment (N). The gas is flammable, with an autoignition temperature of 651°C, and can form explosive mixtures with air. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) in the United States is 50 parts per million (ppm), while the Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) concentration is estimated at 300 ppm. Ammonia is regulated in the United States as a non-flammable gas. However, it still meets the definition of a material that is toxic by inhalation and requires a hazardous safety permit when transported in quantities greater than 13,248 L (3,500 gallons).

And so, we have learned something new about workplace safety and health again today. Feel free to view the official safety alert as well as to contact us if you have further inquiries about this topic. Be safe out there!

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