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ANFO is the common term for the mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. This explosive mixture is used the world over as an explosive by farmers, minters, construction workers and terrorists.
Why is it used? ANFO is use as an explosive throughout the world because
- The ingredients are cheap
- The ingredients are easy to obtain
- The mixture is easy to make
- The mixture is stable and safe to handle and transport.
ANFO explosives are made commercially by a number of companies for mining and blasting operations and improvised easily by others for illegal means.
Ammonium Nitrate is a common fertilizer and is granular in apperance. The granules are approx 1mm (125th inch) in diameter and are called prills. There are two different types of ammonium nitrate: high density, and low density.
High-density ammonium nitrate is typically sold for agricultural purposes (fertilizer). It’s prills are more compacted so that it spreads evenly when combined to make different fertilizers
Low-density ammonium nitrate is typically sold for explosive manufacturer and occasionally for agricultural purposes. It’s prills are more porous.
Ammonium nitrate is an oxidizer. When it decomposes (typically by burning) it creates it’s own oxygen. Trying to smother an oxidizer fire is next to impossible. It’s fire feeds itself with the oxygen it produces while burning.
The chemical formula for ammonium nitrate is NH4N03. The UN classifcation for ammonium nitrate is UN1942
The fuel oil used is No2 fuel oil, also known as diesel fuel. It can be commonly found at pretty much any gas station.
Obtaining the Ingredients
Explosives can be improvised from both types of ammonium nitrate. However for improvised explosives, low-density ammonium nitrate is more desirable. The reasons that it is more desirable is that low-density prills absorbe fuels more readily and eliminate the need for the addition of other chemicals to the recipe. If you can obtain low-density NH4NO3 the only other compound needed to create a powerful blasting agent is fuel oil.
How is low density NH4NO3 found? There is a great chance of finding it in the communities around the NH4NO3 plants that produce it. Why? Because of transportation costs to the manufacturers in getting their product to market. By selling their NH4NO3 to farmers around their plant, they make more money.
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer can be found in hardware stores, feed and seed stores and the like. You may even find it in Wal-Marts in local area and can be ordered online.
You can also make ammonium nitrate yourself
Because of Homeland Security directives, it is a bit harder to get and more expensive. Online, it really depends on where you get it. It can be found at garden supply stores for about $75/25lb bag. It is also found at the above link from Chinese manufacturers, but while I’ve never tried it myself, something tells me that a large shipment of ammonium nitrate coming through the mail from a Chinese source will probably win you a free visit from Homeland Security, or at least some new neighbors.
Generally it is sold in bags marked ’34-0-0″. Gardeners and farmers know the markings on the bag “34-0-0″ to be the percentages of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium respectively.
How do you tell whether a bag of ammonium nitrate is low-density or high-density?. Generally you can’t. There is usually nothing external on the bag that marks it as low density or high density if you’re buying it from regular sources. If you’re purchasing it from chemistry type stores there is usually an MSDS that comes with the container to tell you, but you will also likely pay a bit more from a chemistry company than you will at a garden store. Usually the best way to find out is to do some research on the manufacturer and their product, or find yourself a microscope. You could very well contact the company itself as a rep and pose as a purchaser for a retail store looking for info on their product.
ANFO Blasting Agent Recpie
The theoretical optimum efficiency of ANFO is 6% fuel oil and 94% low density ammonium nitrate by weight.
- Pour low-density ammonium nitrate into a plastic barrel
- Pour fuel oil over ammonium nitrate
- Mix well.
So for example:
- For a 100 kilogram ANFO explosive charge: 94 kilos of ammonium nitrate and 6 kilos of fuel oil.
- For a 25 kilo ANFO explosive charge: 23.5 kilos of ammonium nitrate and 1.5 kilos of fuel oil.
ANFO is a very stable explosive. To detonate ANFO a strong shockwave is needed. Commercial users utilize a high explosive detonator to generate that shockwave. An alternative method of detonating ANFO is by use of an explosive chain. An explosive chain is a series of progressively larger explosive charges to detonate the main charge