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Subject: Re: OK Bombing tort suit
From: (Gerald L. Hurst) 
Date: May 22 1995

In article <3pb1c1$>, Dave Troller <> 

>in a classic example of why the legal system has earned the disregard
>of the general public at large, at least two high-profile attonreys
>have indicated an intention to sue fertilizer manufacturers in connection 
>with the tragic bombing at oklahoma city. 

I've not posted anything in this forum, because I am not an attorney and 
my opinion probably counts for little in in a moderated conference. 
However, the OKC topic is one which has attracted my attention and drawn 
from me several "devil's advocate," postings elsewhere.  My interest stems
from my background as a chemist, expert witness in product liability 
lawsuits, explosives "expert" in the legal sense, and an "expert" on 
ammonium nitrate explosives in particular.

By some coincidence I was Chief Scientist of the old Atlas Powder Company 
for a number of years long before it was acquired for the second time by 
ICI and became ICI Explosives.  I seriously doubt that the current 
management of ICI would recognize my name, given the probable turnover
in management that often accompanies an acquisition.  It may or may not 
happen that some interested attorney will happen to discover this 
reservoir of potential information and opinion, but it will not happen 
through the net.

Also by some quirk of fate, one of the first cases I ever worked on was an 
ANFO bombing in the Western District of Oklahoma back in about 1972.  And 
again, by coincidence, I happen to be the author of several patents on 
sensitized ammonium nitrate explosives including the patent for the
Kinepak 2-component explosive.

I invented Kinepak back in 1970, in response to the need of the small 
company I had co-counded for a material we could ship in modest 
quantities. We were making a class A explosive at the time, but could not 
transport small quantities of a case or two to our customers for 
evaluation because of the astronomical costs.  The Kinepak solved this 
problem by providing a material more powerful than dynamite which could be 
shipped and stored as a non-explosive.  It was, in fact, so freely
marketable under existing laws that it was frequently referred to as a 
"mail order" explosive by the press.

The various Federal, state and local regulatory agencies were less than 
thrilled with the prospect of an exempt explosive material in interstate 
and intrastate commerce.  In order to avoid an avalanche of new laws and 
regs, the company began a voluntary program under which any shipment of 
Kinepak to a new customer was preceded by an identity check and a letter 
to the local police department a week in advance to to inform them of the 
pending delivery.  In the case of sales through distributors, the reseller 
was required to take similar precautions.  In practice this procedure was 
not overly cumbersome, because the vast majority of inquiries were from 
legitimate explosives users with easily verified track records.

Interstate transportation (DOT) and state and local regs or potential regs 
were a problem which was handled by a lot conferences and live 
demonstrations designed to show that it would be sufficient to require 
that the components be stored in individual locked facilities without the 
usual magazine requirements of steel cladding, etc. to resist rifle 
bullets.  Some states were tougher than others. In California, I put on 
one very large demonstration for the state fire marshal and his associates 
including various police agencies.  California prided itself on the 
supposed control they had over explosives precursors and thus wanted to 
put tight restrictions on Kinepak components. They moderated their stance 
after watching us construct a dozen home-made bombs from various
ingredients purchased the previous day from stores in L.A.  The demo was 
conducted at the Saugus  facility (prison for not very dangerous people). 
Believe it or not the prison had an explosives magazine where they kept 
dynamite which we borrowed for comparison shots.

The first point of  this yarn is that Kinepak was sold as a non-explosive 
for the following 20 years and the only bomb incident I know of  was the 
use of Kinepak once in Michigan in an attempt by one motorcycle gang to 
take out another's headquarters.  They botched the job, and the unexploded 
stolen material was recovered.  The second point is that a great number of
government officials across this country understood that ANFO also made an 
effective bomb, because, if for no other reason, we showed them so.

ANFO hasn't really changed much since those days, but the world's attitude 
certainly has.  The 1972 ANFO bomb that took out a farm couple had an 
apparent reason: to stop them from testifying in a cattle rustling case.  
The 1995 OKC bombing is something else - a symptom of a world which has 
grown perceptibly meaner.

There can be little doubt that new regulations will be passed in the wake 
of the disaster.  Whether these regulations will  constitute a measurable 
deterrent is questionable in light of the fact that we can never rid 
ourselves of the knowledge of how to make weapons of mass destruction 
despite the tightest controls on raw materials .  In my very early career, 
before the disenchantment, I helped develop methods of covert warfare for 
use in the Viet Nam war, including the making of explosives and 
incendiaries behind enemy lines from primitive materials.  The world 
really didn't need my technical help in these matters. It already knew too 

Another question entirely, is whether the manufacturers who designed a 
product and a system for an older and somewhat saner world are liable for 
the actions of  our recently hatched new breed of madmen.

I will be watching the OKC case and the reactions of gonvernment and 
industry with the greatest of attention.  Any thoughts on this matter will 
be appreciated.  Despite my long experience in such matters, I find myself 
reluctant to rush to judgment.

Jerry (Dr. Gerald L. Hurst)

If this document is out of place or too long, feel free to trash it.  I'll 
post a copy over in alt.engr.explosives for the few old pros and the young 
sprouts who already know too much and too little.

From: (Gerald L. Hurst)
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
Subject: Re: Archives
Date: 29 Oct 1996 19:33:00 GMT

In article <01bbc54c$1423d6a0$LocalHost@leeclock>, "Lee Clock"
<> says:

>Tom Perigrin <> wrote in article
><stuff about making a ball mill snipped>
>> An uglier, but possibly cheaper, way would be to use discarded commerical
>> truck tires...  That way you get steel belting IN the rubber.    I'd use
>> two or three truck tires in a vertical stack and then leave the top open.. 
>>  After all, it is going to open itself if it explodes, so your lid just
>> becomes "fallout".
>Being a manufacturing engineer, I usually don't have any trouble
>visualizing just about anything, but I have no idea what you are talking
>about. Barricading the mill? 

I can't speak for Tom, but I too would recommend a stack of old truck
tires as a barricade.  I used to routinely shoot 50 g HE charges against
steel plates in the middle a truck tire or a stack of tires.  50 g 
will give a heavy tire a good bouncing thump, but the tires will survive
an unlimited number of shots.

Commercial blasting mats are often made of strips of old tires held
together by steel cable.  I blew one of these into two pieces hanging
from power poles in a demonstration to the TVA of the relative strength
of Kinepak compared to the dynamite they had used up until that time.
Their particular dynamite, set by TVA specs, would barely hump the mat
off the ground.

They shot the dynamite first and recorded the event on a seismograph in 
hopes of comparing the two explosives electronically.  The dynamite gave 
a fair thump and the mat jumped.  The powder monkey then carefully set a 
Kinepak charge of equal weight and depth.  I was lost in thought and sort 
of wandered up the road a bit when I heard a voice yell out, "Hey, how
powerful is this stuff?" Another voice replied, "I dunno, but there goes
the inventor, we better move back."

I thought, "Sheesh, that Kinepak better perform or this bodes to be 
embarrassing, what with me way up the road like I was expecting an 

There were three fire-in-the-holes and then Armageddon.  Following a 
wonderful BOOOOOOM accompanied by a great pillar of red Alabama dust, 
the red fog slowly dispersed to reveal the two halves of the mat swaying 
in the wires. Oh yeah, those were the days. 

Of course, back then folks were a little more easy going on the subject
of explosives, and decorated power poles were no problem for the power 
construction division.

I came into Alabama with about a bunch of Kinepak in a rented van (a 
yellow Ryder) and loaded and shot a couple of power pole holes (ca. 
20X20X14') for them after that first demonstration.  It seems that up 
until then they had been unable to break the sandstone in that northern 
Alabama region with their regular TVA-specified dynamite and any 
reasonable hole pattern. The Kinepak was able to shoot to grade in a 
single blast.

We went on shooting, but some of the holes were wet and there were
no water-proof Kinestiks in those days.  We ended up with the TVA execs
buying all the golf club separator tubes in town.  These gentlemen stood
around, some of them in suits, mixing Kinepak in plastic buckets and
tamping it into the plastic tubes, which were then corked and taped shut.
The construction guys were drilling bore holes ahead of us and working
hoppy toads behind us. The stalled march across sand mountain resumed.

They had me up at 4 a.m. about three days in a row before I finally 
figured out it wasn't me they liked, it was my supply of Kinepak. 
Outfits the size of the TVA can't just go out and purchase a new 
explosive for tomorrow's shoot.-- they have to go through slow channels. 
So I gave them the rest of the powder and they let me go home.

Thereafter, the TVA Power Construction Division wrote their specs around
Kinepak for as long as I can remember.  Maybe they still use it -- I 
don't know.  Anyway, there is an Alcoa plant in northern Alabama that
gets its juice from those power lines, and that TVA project was an 
auspicious part of the beginning for Kinepak.

Jerry (Ico)

From: "Gerald L. Hurst" <>
Newsgroups: alt.engr.explosives
Subject: Re: Kinepak (Was: Information on explosives and hazardous materials 
	for sale)
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 01:23:54 -0500

Kinepak is not suitable for most military uses.  It was designed strictly
for civilian use.  If you want to understand how the material was made
#6 cap-sensitive, I suggest you read the patent.  At the time the explosive
was developed, the #6 was King and the problem lay in making an
explosive that would shoot reliably with a relatively weak blasting cap
but be able to survive the impact of a 30-06 bullet.

The blasting industry has by now adopted the #8 as standard because
of the growing use of water gels, which will not shoot reliably with a
#6.  The dynamite that Kinepak replaced in several applications
would detonate readily when hit by a .22 bullet or a well-aimed hammer.

Jerry (Ico)

Anonymous wrote:

> Hey,
> it seems like they are selling informations on a "military" Kinepak: who
> can shed light (for free) on this rather interesting subject? I only
> know that ammonium nitrate and nitromethane enter in its commercial
> composition: BTW, how did they make it sensitive to old #6 caps?
> Thanks in advance.
> 38/07/101

From: "Gerald L. Hurst" <>
Newsgroups: alt.engr.explosives
Subject: Kinepak VOD
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 19:13:38 GMT

Last April, Bill Nelson posted an open question regarding the
effect of different cap strengths on the VOD of Kinepak.
Unlike dynamite, Kinepak generally detonates near full velocity
or not at all.  This is one reason it was so successful in
secondary blasting (boulder busting with surface charges)
in which the charge must reach high pressure over a short
run.  It really doesn't matter much whether a #6 or #8  cap is
used.  I'm sure one could observe short-run differences in the
laboratory, but not but they would not be significant in the field.
Longer charges would settle in at a constant velocity given
the same particle size distribution and packing density.

There seem to be two schools of thought about the liquid
component of Kinepak.  Some think it is neat nitromethane,
others hold that it contains additional material.  If you were
formulating Kinepak for the first time, you would have to
weigh the benefits and drawbacks of additives.  Since most
organic materials contain an abundance of CH2 and CH3
groups, an additive could help to achieve better oxygen
balance, producing increased energy at low cost.  Most
solutes have a desensitizing effect -- a definite drawback.

Some substances have a lesser tendency to decrease
sensitivity, but these may increase the solubility of the
solid component, leading to crystal growth and consequent
loss of performance over time.

There are certain classes of materials that actually increase
sensitivity, but these tend to introduce instability.

This is what formulation chemistry is all about -- trade-offs
which lead to what one hopes is the "optimum" composition.

Then there is the question of whether the solid component
is a really a single substance.  Here one finds a different
set of pros and cons to consider.

If anyone is interested in what I'm into these days, go to and read up on the Terri Hinson and
Sonia Cacy cases.

Jerry (Ico)

From: "Gerald L. Hurst" <>
Newsgroups: alt.engr.explosives
Subject: Re: Kinepak VOD
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 05:18:14 GMT

Perhaps, but the object of the discussion is to inspire thought, not to
pander to recipe hunters.  Instruments too often seduce to a botom line
devoid of context -- kind of like skipping to the last page of a book.
The exact composition of Kinepak liquid component is just another
factoid; the reasons behind the composition offer something more.

Jerry (Ico)

Thallion <> wrote in message
> > There seem to be two schools of thought about the liquid
> > component of Kinepak.  Some think it is neat nitromethane,
> > others hold that it contains additional material.
> That would be awfully simple to decide. Simply cromatograph
> the liquid (either with simple TLC or GC/MS depending on
> what you have available to you).
> Thallion

From: "Gerald L. Hurst" <>
Newsgroups: alt.engr.explosives
Subject: Re: Kinepak VOD
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 10:02:35 GMT

There is no such thing as a typical use pattern for Kinepak.  Some
outfits have transportation problems but adequate class A storage

These folks may arm a ton of the material and use it not for it's
2-component feature but for its punch.  For instance, the lumber
companies in Indonesia had a devil of a time shipping explosives
around half the world and through the Hong Kong harbor, but they
had no problem storing or moving the product around in the
Borneo jungle.  I've been to many a facility that kept large stores
of armed Kinepak in regular magazines.  Elsewhere, the product
had to sleep in seismic holes for long periods before it was
shot.  BTW, Seismic charges were made in large, screw-together
cartridges that contained multiple versions of the Kinepak  to form
a detonation train.

Economics always plays a role in explosives manufacture, but in
formulating Kinepak, it played second fiddle.  We could have made
a much cheaper product if we had been willing to settle for lower
detonation pressure or less stability.  The stuff we discarded as
unfit for commerce would be much more interesting to this group.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong forum for discussing explosives
technology.  The topic interferes with the flow of ideas on other
subjects :)

Jerry (Ico)

polycarp <> wrote in message
> On Wed, 22 Sep 1999 19:13:38 GMT "Gerald L. Hurst"
> >snip<
> > Some substances have a lesser tendency to decrease
> > sensitivity, but these may increase the solubility of the
> > solid component, leading to crystal growth and consequent
> > loss of performance over time.
> Of a truth!  But how much time are we talking about?  I've never used
> Kinepak except that it was mixed and shot the same day, and I suspect
> my use pattern was typical for this product.
> Significant consolidation takes more time than that.  (Exactly how long
> depends in part on temperature and temperature changes, of course.)
> On another issue, surely simple economics was fundamental to the
> decision to blend NM with other ingredients.  NM is many times more
> expensive than isopropanol and its ilk.
> --
> Posted via Talkway -
> Exchange ideas on practically anything (tm).

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