Demilitarization of nitrocellulose propellant case study


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Engagement Details
Client: Department of the Army
Site: Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (“AAP”), Indiana
Task: Dissolution and neutralization of nitrocellulose (“NC”) propellant
Date: October 2010

Indiana AAP is comprised of 10,649 acres and has been in operation since 1941. The facilities produced large quantities of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin based propellants and explosives during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It has been declared an excess site by the U.S. Army. The manufacturing equipment and building at Indiana AAP must first be decontaminated prior to deconstruction and transfer of the land to the state of Indiana. The challenge in decontamination of the buildings has been lack of a safe and cost-effective technology to dispose of the solid NC propellants swept off the equipment and buildings.

Planteco developed an innovative method to dissolve the different sizes of single, double and composite base propellants followed by neutralization at ambient temperature. Indiana AAP management provided three sizes of double base solid NC propellant for dissolution and neutralization. The proprietary formulations were prepared to dissolve and neutralize multiple batches of the NC propellants.

NC propellant pellets were dissolved to form a dark colored solution. The breakdown products from the process were sulfate and small amounts of nitrate and nitrite. The cellulose was transformed to glucose and mannose primarily, with smaller amounts of arabinose and xylose. This demonstration completed at Indiana AAP confirmed that NC propellant can be neutralized and degraded to monosaccharides (sugars) that may become a potential source of raw material for cellulosic ethanol production.

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