WTC Molten Steel
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The story...

Molten steel was discovered in the basements of the collapsed WTC. Fire couldn't raise the temperature high enough to melt steel, but explosives, particularly thermite, could.

As Lisa Giuliani put it:

The existence of these burning pools of molten steel were confirmed by:

- Mark Lorieux of Controlled Demolition, Inc
- Peter Tully, President of Tully Construction
- and the American Free Press newspaper

Please explain where these molten pools of steel came from, because hydrocarbon fires are not going to burn in an oxygen-starved environment as these underground fires did.

Our take...

So we have three sources? Maybe not. Let's go back to a more complete telling of the story.

Peter Tully, president of Tully Construction of Flushing, New York, told AFP that he saw pools of "literally molten steel" at the World Trade Center. Tully was contracted on September 11 to remove the debris from the site.

Tully called Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI) of Phoenix, Maryland, for consultation about removing the debris. CDI calls itself "the innovator and global leader in the controlled demolition and implosion of structures."

Loizeaux, who cleaned up the bombed Federal Building in Oklahoma City, arrived on the WTC site two days later and wrote the clean-up plan for the entire operation.

AFP asked Loizeaux about the report of molten steel on the site. "Yes," he said, "hot spots of molten steel in the basements." These incredibly hot areas were found "at the bottoms of the elevator shafts of the main towers, down seven [basement] levels," Loizeaux said. The molten steel was found "three, four, and five weeks later, when the rubble was being removed," Loizeaux said. He said molten steel was also found at 7 WTC, which collapsed mysteriously in the late afternoon.

Construction steel has an extremely high melting point of about 2,800 Fahrenheit (1535 Celsius). Asked what could have caused such extreme heat, Tully said, "Think of the jet fuel."

Okay, so we have two sources here, Tully and Loizeaux, who were then reported in the third (American Free Press). Or do we? Note that Tully is the one claiming he saw the steel, and the article then says he called Loizeaux. So it Loizeaux simply repeating what he's heard from Tully? That would make sense, and it appears to be confirmed by this claimed email from Loizeaux:

Here is what he wrote to me today at 10:38 PST:
Mr. Bryan:

I didn't personally see molten steel at the World Trade Center site. It was reported to me by contractors we had been working with. Molten steel was encountered primarily during excavation of debris around the South Tower when large hydraulic excavators were digging trenches 2 to 4 meters deep into the compacted/burning debris pile. There are both video tape and still photos of the molten steel being "dipped" out by the buckets of excavators. I'm not sure where you can get a copy.

Sorry I cannot provide personal confirmation. 


Mark Loizeaux, President
2737 Merryman's Mill Road
Phoenix, Maryland USA 21131
Tel:  1-410-667-6610
Fax: 1-410-667-6624

If accurate, the source has now moved from Loizeaux back to contractors, but there’s no information here on how the substance was identified as “molten steel”, or who might have performed the analysis to figure it out.

There’s another complication in terms of the WTC debris temperatures, according to NASA analyses made on September 16th and 23rd.

Initial analysis of these data revealed a number of thermal hot spots on September 16 in the region where the buildings collapsed 5 days earlier. Analysis of the data indicates temperatures greater than 800 degrees F. Over 3 dozen hot spots appear in the core zone. By September 23, only 4, or possibly 5, hot spots are apparent, with temperatures cooler than those on September 16.

Over 800 degrees F is hot, but not nearly hot enough. A more speculative view on the paper suggests maximum temperatures of 1341 degrees F ( ), but that's still well below the “about 2,800 Fahrenheit” we need to get "literally molten steel". 

The get-out here is that NASA could only see surface temperatures, obviously. And they took their first measurements on the 16th, so temperatures could have been even higher before then. Keep in mind that the hotspots had reduced significantly by the 23rd, though, and excavators wouldn’t have been digging anywhere close to the basement levels until some time after that.

Other accounts suggest the temperatures needn’t have been that high to produce noticeable and dramatic effects.

However, Clark doesn't know how deep into the pile AVIRIS could see. The infrared data certainly revealed surface temperatures, yet the smoldering piles below the surface may have remained at much higher temperatures. "In mid-October, in the evening," said Thomas A. Cahill, a retired professor of physics and atmospheric science at the University of California, Davis, "when they would pull out a steel beam, the lower part would be glowing dull red, which indicates a temperature on the order of 500 to 600 C. And we know that people were turning over pieces of concrete in December that would flash into fire--which requires about 300 C. So the surface of the pile cooled rather rapidly, but the bulk of the pile stayed hot all the way to December."

Perhaps aware of these problems, some people use other accounts to support the "molten steel" idea. Let's look at a few of those.

Dr. Keith Eaton toured Ground Zero and stated in The Structural Engineer , "They showed us many fascinating slides [Eaton] continued, ranging from molten metal which was still red hot weeks after the event, to 4-inch thick steel plates sheared and bent in the disaster." (Structural Engineer , September 3, 2002, p. 6;.)

The observation of molten metal at Ground Zero was emphasized publicly by Leslie Robertson, the structural engineer responsible for the design of the World Trade Center Towers, who reported that "As of 21 days after the attack, the fires were still burning and molten steel was still running." (Williams, 2001, p. 3.)

Sarah Atlas was part of New Jersey's Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue and was one of the first on the scene at Ground Zero with her canine partner Anna. She reported in Penn Arts and Sciences , summer 2002, "'Nobody's going to be alive.' Fires burned and molten steel flowed in the pile of ruins still settling beneath her feet." (Penn, 2002.)

Dr. Allison Geyh was one of a team of public health investigators from Johns Hopkins who visited the WTC site after 9-11. She reported in the Late Fall 2001 issue of Magazine of Johns Hopkins Public Health, "In some pockets now being uncovered they are finding molten steel.

Eaton's quote refers to "molten metal", not steel. The use of “glowing red” suggests he may not mean it’s liquid metal, either.

The "Leslie Robertson" quote comes second-hand from James Williams, SEAU President, in an account of a Robertson presentation ( ). We emailed Roberston to find out if it was accuate, and his brief reply arrived quickly:

I've no recollection of having made any such statements...nor was I in a position to have the required knowledge.
Details here

Williams notes of the presentation only talk of “molten metal”, not steel. It’s possible to construct a case that Robertson mentioned “molten steel” in the lecture, but forgot it later, and Williams wrote “molten steel” rather than metal because, ah, he just did. But short of some evidence to support that, this quote doesn’t appear to have much substance.

The Sarah Atlas story also appears to be use “molten steel” for dramatic effect, rather than anything else. How could she possibly know for sure that “molten steel flowed in the pile of ruins still settling beneath her feet"? We checked with the author, and he said this information would have been a quote from someone, but he doesn’t remember who (and none of the possible subjects would really qualify as an expert witness).

We recently discovered another pointer to the use of “molten steel”, too. A message on the LibertyPost forum referred to a now defunct site called, where a WTC construction worker published a potentially relevant photo ( ). Could this be true? The site is dead, but there’s a copy in the WayBack machine, and the front page has this guys credentials:

My name is Frank Silecchia. I am one of the many WTC Ground Zero workers who was devastated by what I saw and encountered after the Twin Towers collasped.

Proceed to the photos section ( ) and you’ll find something captioned “this is a picture of Tower #1 ..2 months later, molten steel”. Which looks like this.

molten steel

Now maybe it’s just us, but we have some problems with that.

First, there’s no proof here other than the caption of when and where this was taken.

Second, whatever’s glowing red here clearly isn’t isn’t “molten” in the sense of “melted”.There may possibly be something dripping off one end, but we don’t know what that is.

Third, there seems an odd lack of conduction amongst the materials being picked up. We can see that the excavator has picked up a considerable amount of nearby material that presumably was very close to the same heat source, and it looks like glowing metal, but it’s completely black. There’s no orange -- bright red -- dull red transition across the materials, it’s just a straight orange to black. Steel isn’t a good conductor of heat, it’s true, but is that enough to explain the photo?

And fourth, we know there were underground fires at the site for some time. How hot could they get? Depends on the materials and the supply of oxygen, but in some cases the temperatures can be surprisingly high:

Australia is the home of one of the world's few naturally burning coal seams...
The fire temperature reaches temperatures of 1,700C deep beneath the ground.

Coal fires produce higher temperatures than we’d expect from the debris pile, but then Steve Jones suggests we only need 845C to 1,040C to explain our glowing steel.  Could that be produced with the materials available, and oxygen filtering in from above, or from the subways connected to the WTC basement level?

There’s a clue in the results of this fire test intended to simulate conditions in a timber frame building:

Peak temperatures in the living area of the fire flat reached approximately 1000C and remained at this level until the test was stopped at 64 minutes...

Despite average atmosphere temperatures in excess of 900C for 30 minutes...

The Structural Fire Engineering department of the University of Manchester tells us that adding plastics to the mix can make things hotter still:

The standard fires do not always represent the most severe fire conditions. Structural members having been designed to standard fires may fail to survive in real fires. For example, the modern offices tend to contain large quantities of hydrocarbon fuels in decoration, furniture, computers and electric devices, in forms of polymers, plastics, artificial leathers and laminates etc. Consequently, the fire becomes more severe than the conventional standard fire. t.htm

Office fires can be severe, then. What temperatures are achievable? The same page details four different fire types, and shows their temperature range over time.



Figure 1 shows the various nominal fire curves for comparison. It can be seen that, over a period of 2 hours, the hydrocarbon fire is the most severe followed by the standard fire, with the external fire being the least severe fire although the slow heating fire represents the lowest temperature up to 30 minutes. It is noteworthy that for standard and smouldering fires, the temperature continuously increases with increasing time. For the external fire, the temperature remains constant at 680C after approximate 22 minutes. Whereas for the hydrocarbon fires, the temperatures remain constant at 1100C and 1120C after approximate 40 minutes. t.htm

Note that the hydrocarbon fire passed 1000 degrees Centrigrade (1832F) very quickly, and even the smouldering fire reached this point over time. 

An article by two Arup Fire engineers tells a similar story, pointing out that under some conditions fires can reach much higher temperatures than indicated by the standard curve. Here’s the chart they use:


This shows that temperature increases with fire load (that is, more fuel). And they point out that reduced ventilation doesn’t necessarily have the result you’d expect:

The well ventilated compartments experienced lower temperatures and fires of shorter duration.

Less ventilation means more severe fires? This obviously only works up to a point -- reduce the oxygen supply too much and the fire will die down -- but it does illustrate that the relationship between ventilation and temperature isn’t a simple one.

Another study offers more confirmation of the temperatures that can be reached in fires, and their effect on steel. BRE (Building Research Establishment) carried out a project based around "the development and validation of a CFD-based engineering methodology for evaluating thermal action on steel and composite structures" a few years ago. They build a fire compartment, used various loads (either wood, or wood with plastic) and reported peak temperatures:

As can be seen in the above table, peak measured temperatures exceeded 1300C in five tests, this measurement being supported by the observation of total heat fluxes of up to 350 kW/m2 and velocities of over 15m/s.

These values are somewhat higher than those observed in typical full-scale compartment fire tests and can be attributed in part to the highly insulating walls, the inclusion of plastic in the fuel and the short residence times (due to high flow rates).

Again, ordinary fuels with a little plastic, and the right conditions, yielded high temperatures. And this applied even to the steel itself, where the maximum temperature record in four tests proved to be 1220, 1301, 1245 and 1196 C (that’s a peak of 2372 F).

Do these temperatures exist in special conditions only? No. A National Fire and Arson Report article from 1992 details the tests done on four steel mattress springs from a normal fire, which appeared to be partly melted:

The apparently melted ends of each of the four springs were cut off and mounted in a metallurgical mounting medium, polished, etched, and examined at up to 500x. Three of the four springs exhibited a decarburized ferrite microstructure, with oxidation on the top surface. Such a microstructure is typical of steel exposed to temperatures in the range of 1800F [982 C]. 

One of the wire ends exhibited a ferrite microstructure with oxidation on the top surface and incipient melting at the grain boundaries. This particular wire end had attained temperatures of between 2100F [1148 C] and 2200F [1204 C]. This wire end had, in fact, just begun to melt, which is what we would expect if there was melting further down the wire.

It doesn’t require special materials for a fire to approach 1000C, then. And in this final case, one steel spring sample could have attained temperatures as high as 1204 C. Whether the conditions in the debris pile would allow it is another matter, but beware people who dismiss this out of hand: no-one knows for sure.

None of this proves anything, of course, but it is interesting. Especially because, if this is an accurate photo of what someone was describing as “molten steel” then it’s clearly different from the entirely “liquid steel” that some people imagine.

There’s some support for this use of “molten” elsewhere.

NYDS played a major role in debris removal — everything from molten steel beams to human remains — running trucks back and forth between Ground Zero and Fresh Kills landfill, which was reopened to accommodate the debris.

A “molten” steel beam? If it’s a steel beam, then it’s not “molten” in the sense of being liquid metal. Does he just mean steel that appeared deformed, or was glowing when first removed from the debris pile?

And consider this report:

Underground fires raged for months. O'Toole remembers in February seeing a crane lift a steel beam vertically from deep within the catacombs of Ground Zero. "It was dripping from the molten steel," he said.

“Molten steel” in February, perhaps 5 months after the attacks? If it’s proposed that something like thermite/ thermate was responsible, then we can’t help wonder how much would be required to maintain high temperatures for so long. The advocates of controlled demolition don’t appear to have made any calculations in this area. And it’s not difficult to imagine why.

Of course they could simply say that this particular report was mistaken, and the beam was “dripping” from something else. But on what basis do we dismiss this report and accept the others? 

Back to the Allison Geyh story, there's no explanation of how a public health investigator is going to identify molten steel. Is she just reporting second-hand accounts that we’ve discovered already, perhaps from Peter Tully? We emailed to ask, and it turns out that Geyh saw no molten steel herself, and is only repeating what she heard from someone else:

I personally saw open fires, glowing and twisted I-beams. I was told, but do not remember by whom, that the workers were finding molten steel.
From here

Of course you could argue that there are too many stories to be “explained away”, that there’s no way fire alone could account for all these reports. But if so, what about these?

Underground it was still so hot that molten metal dripped down the sides of the wall from Building 6. (Kenneth Holden, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction)

RICH GARLOCK: Going below, it was smoky and really hot. We had rescue teams with meters for oxygen and carbon dioxide. They also had temperature monitors. Here WTC 6 is over my head. The debris past the columns was red-hot, molten, running.

Only “molten metal” and debris, but if that phrase is good enough in Keith Eaton’s testimony, why not here? Does this show that thermite was planted in Building 6, too? Or could it be that the fire was enough, after all?

To finish, none of these stories prove there was molten (as in liquid) steel at the WTC. There's no evidence temperatures were hot enough to produce that (whatever the energy source), and some of the stories claiming "molten steel" have built-in implausibilities. There was certainly glowing metal, but this only indicates temperatures within the range of a fire.

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