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The Air Force buys, stores and transports different hydrazine fuels including anhydrous hydrazine (AH), methylhydrazine (MMH), dimethylhydrazine unsymmetrical (UDMH) and a mixture of AH and UDMH known as A-50. Hydrazines have operational applications in many of our space and missile programs.

The Air Force contracts with the Olin Chemical Corporation for the manufacture of hydrazines. The fuels are produced at Olin's Lake Charles, LA., plant and blended and stored at Olin's McIntosh, AL., plant. Commercial carriers transport hydrazine to Air Force, National Aeronautics Space Administration, and defense contractor facilities throughout the country. The products are transported in bulk quantities by cargo tank trailer and by rail. Smaller quantities are transported in cylinders by truck and ship.

The San Antonio Air Logistics Center's Directorate of Aerospace Fuels Management at Kelly Air Force Base, TX., manages the procurement, transportation, storage and disposal of hydrazine for the Air Force. Shipments are made under the direction of the directorate's Transportation Office. This office initiates many safeguards to ensure shipments are made in the safest manner possible and constantly looks for ways to improve the safety of the transportation system.


In general, hydrazine fuels are flammable, toxic and corrosive. The MMH, UDMH and A-50 are inhalation hazards. They are all clear colorless liquids with an ammonia-like or -fishy- odor. They are flammable over a wide range of vapor-air concentrations and ignite spontaneously in combination with oxidizers to produce the thrust required to lift rockets into space.

Hydrazine fuels will react with carbon dioxide and oxygen in the air. AH and MMH may ignite spontaneously when exposed to materials with large surface areas or when they come in contact with metal oxides such as rust. All are water-soluble and can cause injury to plant and animal life. Air oxidation eventually causes hydrazine fuels to decompose into compounds which serve as plant nutrients and fertilizer.


The Air Force transports bulk shipments of hydrazine to Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL.; NASA Test Facility, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.; Vandenberg AFB CA.; Aerojet Propulsion Systems Plant, CA, and Arnold Engineering and Development Center, TN.

Product users base their shipping requirements for hydrazine on operational needs and forward their requirements to the Directorate of Aerospace Fuels Management. An inventory manager coordinates shipments with the directorate's Transportation Office who monitor all shipments. Since hydrazine requirements fluctuate, there is no average delivery frequency. From Dec. 31, 1994 through Dec. 31, 1995 there has been 35 loaded A-50 tank trailers shipped.

Routes for the transportation of hydrazine are selected using a computerized risk assessment program. The program computes a risk factor for each proposed route, considering such things as population, probability of an accident, and the potential affect an accidental product leak could have on the population. Routes are reviewed periodically, every two years at a minimum, to meet Department of Transportation requirements.

The Air Force recognizes the risk in transporting hydrazine fuels and has taken many precautions over the years to enhance the safety of shipments. These precautions have proven effective. There has been no accident or incident resulting in the loss of liquid product on public highways in the more than 30 years.


The Air Force contracts only with long-established commercial motor carriers who have excellent, industry-proven safety records. The experience, qualifications and training required of drivers exceed Code of Federal Regulations requirements for drivers of other hazardous materials shipments. Two drivers are assigned to each tank trailer carrying the product. Two tank trailers comprise a normal shipment.

Drivers receive formal training every two years on the physical and chemical characteristics of hydrazine fuels. Training includes instruction on authorized routes of movement and safe stopping places; actions to take in the event of mechanical breakdown, accident or product loss, and other responsibilities such as required documentation and special shipping instructions.


Special MC 338 tank trailers are used to transport bulk quantities of hydrazine fuels. The trailers are equipped with state-of-the-art safety features that far exceed industry standards and current federal packaging specifications for equipment used to transport products with similar hazards. The cargo tank trailers have the capacity to haul 2,500 gallons of product.

The trailers and equipment are constructed from rugged stainless steel. The tank consists of an inner tank and outer jacket. The annular space between the tank and the jacket contains a gaseous nitrogen blanket to maintain an inert corrosion-free environment. A honey-combed material similar to aluminum at the front of the trailer absorbs energy, greatly reducing the possibility of a spill should the trailer become involved in a head-on collision. The inner surface of the outer jacket is painted with a fire-retarding epoxy to insulate the inner tank from extreme heat or fire.

Valves and piping are located on the top rear portion of the trailer and are enclosed in a retractable steel cover with roll bars for protection. The roll bars can withstand the full weight of the trailer and its contents in a rollover without damage to piping or valves. Also, the cover will not close if any of the valves are not completely shut off. An additional safety feature is that each trailer has an emergency valve leak kit of color-coded canisters specifically fitted for each valve. When installed, the canisters seal off any leaking valve until more permanent repairs can be made.

Government inspectors inspect the trailers each month at the carrier's terminal to ensure they comply with the maintenance and road-worthiness provisions of the contract. The same type of inspection is performed prior to the trailer's departure from the terminal to pick up a load of product, at the pick up point both before and after loading, and again at the delivery point before and after unloading. Upon return to the terminal, a government inspector inspects the trailer once more. At that time, repairs or maintenance are completed as required or identified. The trailers are also pneumatically tested every five years at one and one-quarter times the tank's designed pressure to ensure the integrity of the inner tank and its welds.

The cargo tank trailers used for moving hydrazine fuels are owned and maintained for the Air Force under exclusive-use contracts by two motor carriers: Jack B. Kelley, Inc., Amarillo, TX, and Superior Carriers, Inc., Marion, VA. No other materials are ever shipped in these cargo tank trailers. Air Force contracts require motor carriers to have the highest standard of trailer maintenance and inspection.

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