Case Studies

Demilitarization of Nitrocellulose Propellant


Engagement details

Client: Department of the Army
Site: Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (“AAP”), Indiana Task: Dissolution and Neutralization of Nitrocellulose (“NC”) Propellant
Date: October 2010


Indiana AAP extends over 10,649 acres and has been in operation since 1941. The facility produced large quantities of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin based propellants and explosives during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It has been declared an excess site by the U.S. Army. The manufacturing equipment and building at Indiana AAP must first be decontaminated prior to deconstruction and transfer of land to the state of Indiana. The main challenge for decontaminating the buildings has been finding a safe and cost-effective technology to dispose of the solid NC propellants swept off the equipment and buildings.


MuniRem Environmental developed an innovative method to dissolve the different sized propellants (single, double and composite base) followed by neutralization at ambient temperature. Indiana AAP provided three sizes of double base solid NC propellant for dissolution and neutralization. The proprietary formulations were prepared to dissolve and neutralize multiple batches of the NC propellants.


NC propellant pellets were dissolved and formed a dark solution. The breakdown products were sulfate and small amounts of nitrate and nitrite. The cellulose transformed to glucose and mannose, primarily, with smaller amounts of arabinose and xylose. This demonstration completed at Indiana AAP confirmed that NC propellant can be neutralized and degraded to monosaccharides (sugars) that may become a potential source of raw material for cellulosic ethanol production.