This article was inspired by Dara O Briain's Science Club Episode 2, a look at the father of modern physics, Albert Einstein. In a discussion about the cost of this modern physics beginning at 47 minutes into the program, it mentions that the physics is being tested in the superconducting super collider CERN in Geneva. The Higgs Boson hunting machine cost US$9 billion, with 1,624 giant superconducting magnets buried in 27 kilometres of tunnels firing 2 beams of protons to within a whisker of the speed of light. But this wasn’t enough for our world. A project 3x the size of CERN was planned. Project Erecta Roy Schwitters in Waxahachie, Texas, a suburb of Dallas was discussed and US$2 billion was spent. However, after many years in the making, Congress pulled the plug on funding because it was anticipated that it would cost US$12 billion to complete and the funds would be better spent on other scientific projects. This left 15 miles (24.14 km) of disused tunnels. It is claimed that the Superconducting Super Collider (Desertron) was discontinued as a symbol of the government’s responsiveness to the economic downturn in 1993. Whatever! I got to wondering what had happened to these tunnels and what I found out was very interesting and ties in with the B’org of Food nicely.
After the project was canceled, the main site, located on Farm to Market was deeded to Ellis County, Texas and the county tried numerous times to sell the property. The 135-acre site, which includes 200,000 square feet of space was finally sold in August 2006 to an investment group, GVA Cawley. It was marketed as a data center but ended up being bought on 31 January 2012 by a chemical company called Magnablend, Inc. The company purchased the property after a big fire at its nearby premises in Waxahachie on West Highway 287. It was reported that the most prevalent chemical found at the site was anhydrous ammonia and I’ll write a little about this below.
Magnablend, custom chemical manufacturing, blending and packaging began in Waxahachie in 1979 and also has operations in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and North Dakota. It caters to a variety of industries, including oil (fracking), agriculture (fertilizers), pet and animal feed (supplement), water treatment, environmental remediation, construction and industrial/commercial cleaners.
According to the Magnablend website, the 15 miles of tunnels have been closed, filled, and are inaccessible. Mmm … I wonder what they filled them with. I also wonder what percentage of the 200,000 square feet of space was lost with this action. Some answers along with a threat came from this blog. Some say water is filling the tunnels. The threat is in a comment to file criminal charges against those responsible for trespassing on the site signed by “the Owner”. Purportedly there is a sheriff's station across the street guarding the premises day and night! So the property is still costing the taxpayer and for what?
See the photos now. They show the scale of the operation. I was thinking this site might as well be on Mars for all it has to do with its environment, like much of the developed world today. And if we keep moving in this direction, that's where we'll end up, on barren inhospitable Mars!
In 2011, Magnablend recapitalized the company in partnership with an investor group consisting of TGF Management Corporation, Austin Ventures, and Cotton Creek Capital. The recapitalization will support Magnablend's continued growth and geographic expansion. Magnablend has big sights for developing the spread (literally) of its chemicals all over the world and many business people agree this is a sound business forecast. So what about the chemical, anhydrous ammonia, which was found in abundance at the fire in Waxahachie.Anhydrous Ammonia is ammonia with the water removed. It boils at −33.34 °C (−28.012 °F) at a pressure of 1 atmosphere, and so the liquid must be stored under high pressure or at low temperature. Some stats from Wiki: “The global production of ammonia for 2012 is anticipated to be 198 million tonnes, a 35% increase over the estimated 2006 global output of 146.5 million tonnes.” It is caustic and hazardous and can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, ingestion, eye contact and skin contact.
48,630 pounds of the chemical were reported to be present at Magnablend’s site at the time of the fire in October 2011. If one considers this to be a lot, consider the fact that China produces about 20% more than the USA and India and Russia also produce more than the USA. Where is all this caustic hazardous material going? Over 80% is spread over the ground in order to fertilize agricultural crops, especially corn and wheat! In addition, it is used to eliminate microbes on beef and in animal feed. Lovely.
Besides the above and a few other uses, anhydrous ammonia is a critical ingredient in making the drug called methamphetamine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA has made it legal for treating ADHD and exogenous obesity (obesity originating from factors outside of the patient's control, mmm) in both adults and children! It is also used to treat narcolepsy and ... treatment-resistant depression, another mmm ... It really makes me wonder. The substance saw its first widespread application in WW2, when it was prescribed to German military personnel. I knew they must’ve been on something.
Like heroin, methamphetamine is illegal at the same time as being legal. Also, one can make this drug by buying the ingredients legally, but the process is a bit hazardous.
It’s no doubt that the world is mad about chemicals today, just have a look at the long list of Chemical Manufactures in the world, or maybe even better yet, have a look at the “Hot Products” and “New Suppliers” on one website alone. These chemicals are available to just about anyone to buy or sell online all over the world. Do you have fine and specialty chemical products to sell? Fill in the form and get in touch!