Ammonium Nitrate Chemistry

Bright Orange Plume from Central Queensland Mining Blast

An intense orange plume was captured in spectacular photographs near the mining town of Moranbah. The mine operator, Stanmore Coal, described it as nitrogen combined with oxygen: nitrogen dioxide (NO2). I spoke to ABC Radio Capricornia about this fume event.

NO2 plume from mining explosives
Orange gas from a mining blast near Moranbah, May 31 2020.

Satellite data from Sentinel-5P's TROPOMI instrument detected a significant amount of NO2 over Moranbah on the days after the blast, likely representing the cumulative effects of mining explosives in the region. This can be seen in the image below (top left), compared to the major industrial port of Gladstone (bottom right). 

Plume of nitrogen dioxide over Moranbah (top left), May 31 - June 03, 2020. Sentinel-5P tropospheric NO2 column in micromoles per square metre, processed with Google Earth Engine.


  1. Hi Gabriel, while the orange plume shown in the image at top is highly visible, the blast is a short event, the emissions would disperse to low levels quite rapidly, and a lot of the NO2 would be soaked up by ambient ozone. I think it's more likely the stronger NO2 signal shown in Sentinel-5P image, between Gladstone and 1770, would be due to the larger emissions from Gladstone Power Station. Other smaller amounts of NO2 visible in the image are probably due to road traffic in the Rockhampton and Gladstone urban areas.

    Note: I work as an air quality consultant, but I have no current clients in Queensland.

    1. On further review of the Sentinel image I can see there is a smaller NO2 signal around Moranbah; very interesting. In my initial response (above) I was looking at the larger NO2 signals near Gladstone and Rockhampton, SE of Moranbah.


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