THE AIR FORCE AND THE HIGHWAY TRANSPORTATION OF HYDRAZINE
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.
PROPERTIES OF HYDRAZINE FUELS
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
HYDRAZINE HIGHWAY SHIPMENTS
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
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.
CARGO TANK TRAILER DRIVERS
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
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.
HYDRAZINE TANK TRAILERS
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
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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