New fertilizer less likely to be used for terror

A redesigned ammonium nitrate fertilizer might just keep terrorist acts like the Oklahoma City bombing from occurring. Honeywell, the international diversified corporation that makes everything from security equipment to chemicals and aerospace technologies, is touting this morning its new, safer ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Ammonium nitrate, of course, is among the most popular general agriculture fertilizers, but it has had a darker side, too. The fertilizer can be very explosive, especially when combined with diesel fuel. The fertilizer was used in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing of 1995.

According to Honeywell, the new ammonium nitrate fertilizer has "significantly lower explosive potential." The company has received a patent for this fertilizer, which is not available on the market yet. The company's common line of Sulf-N fertilizers are ammonium sulfate based, not ammonium nitrate based. This new fertilizer could potentially be introduced to regional markets in 2009.

The new, less explosive fertilizer has earned a SAFETY Act Designation from the Department of Homeland Security. The SAFETY Act designates a company's products as meeting the needs of the "Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act," which provides incentives for manufacturers to develop anti-terror measures. Among the incentives is a general liability protection that can be given to the manufacturer.

"The unique composition of this new fertilizer makes it extremely difficult to turn it into a weapon," said Qamar Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Resins & Chemicals.

According to Honeywell, the new fertilizer did not detonate when mixed with fuel oil. The new fertilizer fuses ammonium sulfate with the more common ammonium nitrate. Ammonium sulfate, like ammonium nitrate, is also a commonly used fertilizer.