Breaking the nitrate-based explosives greenhouse

17th January 2024

Breaking the nitrate-based explosives greenhouse

The exciting potential of hydrogen peroxide emulsion (HPE) to reduce explosives emissions will come under the spotlight at the upcoming 50th Conference of the International Society of Explosives Engineers (ISEE) in the US.

In a paper to be presented jointly by Omnia group company BME and strategic partner Hypex Bio Explosives Technology (Hypex Bio), the authors will explain the benefits of HPE in reducing atmospheric and aqueous pollutants associated with blasting. Titled ‘Breaking the Nitrate-Based Explosives Greenhouse: The Dawn of Production-Scale HPE for Industrial Blasting’, the presentation is expected to generate considerable interest among blasting professionals meeting in Savannah, Georgia, USA from 24 to 27 January.

“The past decade has seen renewed interest in HPE as a route to eliminating NOx fumes from blasting,” said D. Scott Scovira, BME’s Global Manager Blasting Science and Engineering. “As more companies have committed to the COP26 goals of Net Zero by 2050, there has been additional impetus to investigate hydrogen peroxide based explosives for industrial use.”

Scovira highlighted that HPE contains no nitrates and does not generate post-blast NOx. It also generates no aqueous nitrate or ammonia pollution, so also contributes to meeting increasingly regulated mine site water discharge limits.

Hypex Bio has recently pioneered the formulation, manufacture and end-use delivery of a hydrogen peroxide based emulsion on an industrial scale. According to Thomas Gustavsson, CEO of Hypex Bio in Stockholm, Sweden, this emulsion is composed primarily of hydrogen peroxide, with a lesser amount of fuel and emulsifier phase. The performance of HPE has proved to be as good as nitrate-based emulsions, and is compatible with current priming and initiation systems. 

“We recently conducted a successful underground HPE evaluation with a major mining company in Sweden,” said Gustavsson. “HPE blast designs were the same as those done with nitrate-based emulsions, and we achieved equivalent rock breakage, advance, muck displacement and excavator performance.”

He added that the ventilation and re-entry times were reduced during this evaluation, due to the absence of hazardous fumes. The mining company has expressed further interest in assessing HPE as a transformative explosive technology. Gustavsson also highlighted that the production of HPE was energy efficient.

“The base HPE is produced in a low energy intensity modular plant using industry proven mixing techniques,” he explained. “In contrast, the production of ammonium nitrate (AN) emulsion is relatively energy-intensive and not carbon neutral.”

HPE offers a significant reduction in total carbon emission when compared to nitrate-based explosives, he continued. Based on the European Union average and for the oxidizer phase only, 1 kg (2.2 lb) of AN emulsion emits 2.3 kg (5.1 lb) of carbon dioxide; in comparison, the production of HPE results in just 0.23 kg (0.5 lb) of carbon dioxide – a 90% difference.

Omnia entered into its strategic partnership with Hypex Bio in October 2023, and holds a minority equity stake in the company.