Could an explosion like Beirut happen in New Zealand?

On Tuesday morning (local time) a warehouse in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut exploded, killing at least 100 and injuring thousands more. 

The massive blast was caused by more than 2000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which had been stockpiled in the warehouse for six years.

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as fertiliser because it's a good source of nitrogen for plants. 

It's unclear what caused the chemical to ignite but the resulting detonation decimated a large part of the city in a catastrophic explosion.

Ammonium nitrate explosions are not as rare as they may seem. Five years ago a Chinese factory went up in flames after an explosion caused by the chemical, as did a Texas fertiliser plant in 2013. In 1995 terrorists used forty bags of the fertiliser to blow up a municipal building in Oklahoma.

With New Zealand having hundreds of farms, it makes sense we have thousands of tonnes of fertiliser too. 

So could we be at risk of a similar disaster?

The Project spoke to the chief executive officer of New Zealand's Fertiliser Association Dr Vera Power.

Dr Power says it's unlikely New Zealand would see a similar catastrophe, as companies don't use ammonium nitrate.

"Typically in New Zealand it's either urea or diammonium phosphate which is stored and sold, which are much safer compounds."

Luckily the fertilisers New Zealand does use are also heavily regulated, meaning the likelihood of a devastating explosion like that of Beirut is low. 

Watch the full video above.