A detailed timeline is guiding trial burn testing underway at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Static Detonation Chamber complex.
“We are following an approximately 14-week timeline to complete the first phase of trial burn testing,” said Andy Shaffer, test coordinator, PCAPP. “Trial burn testing is designed to demonstrate that the SDC units operate as designed.”
The units employ thermal destruction methods to detonate or deflagrate projectiles by heating them to approximately 1,100 degrees. The chemical agent inside is destroyed by thermal decomposition.
During the first five weeks of trial burn testing, empty, inert projectiles, referred to as ACWA Test Equipment, will be deflagrated in various ways to test SDC effectiveness. ATE activities include endurance testing, in which empty projectiles are processed continuously for 24 hours. The systems will then process ATE filled with surrogate chemicals, beginning with ethylene glycol.
“Ethylene glycol is essentially undiluted antifreeze,” Shaffer said. “We will process ethylene glycol in ATE as well as one-gallon paint cans to observe the units’ ability to destroy chemicals.”
The subsequent trial burn testing activities will use a mustard agent surrogate chemical called monochlorobenzene, or MCB.
“MCB is more difficult to destroy than mustard agent,” Shaffer said. “By proving the chamber can destroy MCB, we can say with great confidence that the system can safely destroy mustard agent.”
The processing of conventional ammunition comprises the final portion of trial burn testing. Conventional munitions are tested because they share components with mustard projectiles – fuzes, energetics and propellant charges.
“Processing conventional ammunition is a brief test for our operators to see how the system reacts to explosives versus just the organic material,” Shaffer said.
Following the conclusion of the first phase of trial burn testing, a report on the test results are sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for review. Upon satisfactory approval of the report, the second phase of trial burn testing can begin. This phase will evaluate the system’s ability to destroy agent-filled munitions
“The goal of phase one trial burn testing is to ensure and prove to state regulators that the units are ready and able to safely destroy mustard agent,” Shaffer said.