Pa. Watching Texas Fertilizer Explosion Investigation

Officials have reached out for information on cause of fire and explosion at Texas fertilizer plant

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is keeping an eye on the investigation into the deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant.

As many as 15 people were killed and more than 160 people were hurt when a fire at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas escalated into a massive explosion Wednesday night.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but the plant had two highly-pressurized anhydrous ammonia chemical tanks on site.

Pennsylvania granted 156 licenses to manufacture fertilizer inside the state last year, according to a state report. Thirty-six of those facilities are located in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys.

Pa. Department of Agriculture Deputy Press Secretary Nicole Bucher tells the department has reached out to officials in Texas to find out the cause of the fire and blast.

Bucher says the department could not comment about potential concerns regarding Pennsylvania fertilizer plants, if any, until a cause was determined in Texas.

The Texas explosion has been described as devastating.

A five-to-six block area around the plant was decimated with as many as 75 homes damaged. The explosion was caught on camera and still photos showed a mushroom cloud emanating from the site.

The blast was so powerful, some West, Texas residents were thrown through the air – some crashing through walls and windows. Seismographs registered the explosion as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake.

The United States is a major producer of fertilizer, according to industry group The Fertilizer Institute. Three types -- nitrogen, phosphate and potash – are named after the nutrients they’re made from. The Texas plant made fertilizer from nitrogen.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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