Is ammonia flammable?

Ammonia has a slight flammable gas classification at level 1; however, it can be ignited easily or have an explosive reaction in the right conditions (aka a large energy source). The auto ignition temperature is 1,204°F if catalyzed and 1,570°F if un-catalyzed.

Due to anhydrous ammonia’s low boiling point of -28°F, as an example for concentrated ammonia, it is stored in pressurized containers. These containers prevent the rapid vaporization of the liquid as it is considered to be an extremely hazardous material. When heated, the containers are susceptible to exploding due to the rise in pressure from the condensed ammonia. Container explosions aren’t usually a problem outdoors because the volatile chemical dissipates into the air relatively quickly. However, if taken place indoors, it sticks around and poses a huge risk to workers since the vapor can cause frostbite and horrific chemical burns to the respiratory system and skin.

What happens if it does explode?

If a concentrated ammonia container does explode indoors there are a few things to watch out for besides bodily harm that could create even more danger for workers and other facility equipment. Incompatible materials are the concern here, if they are in the near vicinity of this container malfunction it could increase the risk of fire and related explosions. These materials are:

  • Oxidizing agents
  • Strong acids
  • Halogens
  • Heavy metals like silver or mercury

Another thing to note is that in higher temperatures concentrated ammonia decomposes into very flammable hydrogen and extremely toxic nitrogen dioxide.

The extinguishing media typically used is a dry chemical, CO2, water spray or alcohol-resistant foam if the gas flow cannot be stopped. Those trying to stop the fire must wear fire protective clothing as well as a positive pressure SCBA and those who do not have PPE must get away as fast as possible for fear of exposure or even death.

Overall, when regarding the flammability of concentrated ammonia gas, it can be concluded that the gas itself is not especially flammable, yet the things that may potentially interact with ammonia gas create an extremely flammable and explosive material.

How do I prevent accidents regarding ammonia?

Prevention is always the goal in the safety community and this can easily be done with proper labeling and the correct reference of Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s). Safety data sheets are required to be accessible to workers as it warns them of the hazardous materials that they may be working with. Recently having been updated to an easy to use sixteen-section format, these SDS’s are essential to the safety of employees.


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