What is Lessons Learned?

What is H2LL?

This database is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The safety event records have been contributed by a variety of global sources, including industrial, government and academic facilities.

H2LL is a database-driven website intended to facilitate the sharing of lessons learned and other relevant information gained from actual experiences using and working with hydrogen. The database also serves as a voluntary reporting tool for capturing records of events involving either hydrogen or hydrogen-related technologies.

The focus of the database is on characterization of hydrogen-related incidents and near-misses, and ensuing lessons learned from those events. All identifying information, including names of companies or organizations, locations, and the like, is removed to ensure confidentiality and to encourage the unconstrained future reporting of events as they occur.

The intended audience for this website is anyone who is involved in any aspect of hydrogen use. The existing safety event records are mainly focused on laboratory settings that offer valuable insights into the safe use of hydrogen in energy applications and R&D. It is hoped that users will come to this website both to learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others as well as to share information from their own experiences. Improved safety awareness benefits all.

Development of the database has been primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. While every effort is made to verify the accuracy of information contained herein, no guarantee is expressed or implied with respect to the completeness, causal attribution, or suggested remedial measures for avoiding future events of a similar nature. The contents of this database are presented for informational purposes only. Design of any energy system should always be developed in close consultation with safety experts familiar with the particulars of the specific application.

We encourage you to browse through the safety event records on the website and send us your comments and suggestions. We will continue to add new records as they become available.

How does H2LL work?

If you have an incident you would like to include in the H2LL database, please click the "Submit an Incident" button at the top of the page. You will be asked for a wide range of information on your incident. Please enter as much of the information as possible. In order to protect your and your employer's identities, information that may distinguish an incident (your contact information, your company's name, the location of the incident, etc.) will not be displayed in the incident reports on H2LL.

Lessons Learned Corner

Visit the Lessons Learned Corner Archives.

Key themes from the H2Incidents database will be presented in the Lessons Learned Corner. Safety event records will be highlighted to illustrate the relevant lessons learned. Please let us know what you think and what themes you would like to see highlighted in this safety knowledge corner. You can find all the previous topics in the archives.

As part of preparing for material disposal, a small fire occurred within a fume hood as a researcher was combining several spent ammonia borane (AB) samples that had previously been stored uncovered in the back of the hood for 6+ months. These AB samples consisted primarily of two 40-gram products of a 50wt% AB in silicone oil that had been thermally dehydrogenated. A small amount of unreacted AB slurry is believed to also have been present.

During project clean-up, partially spent (thermally reacted) ammonia borane (AB) residue from a previous experiment was mixed with a small amount of water to rinse the residue from its container. The water reacted with the spent AB resulting initially in a large heat release followed immediately by a fire. It appears that the water addition view more

While performing hydrogen gas release experimentation by thermally reacting a slurry of ammonia borane powder in silicone oil in a plug flow reactor, a discharge port on the test reactor became loose. A foaming white product was leaking from the fitting and discharging in the direction of the heat tape and insulation (back over the reactor). As a result, hot, reacting slurry flowed out of the port and was exposed to air. In the presence of oxygen, the slurry ignited, producing a green flame. A small green flame was noticed at the leak site and flaming product dripped onto the hood deck surface. The flame at the end of the reactor was ~10-12 inches tall at the highest point. The flame on the deck was ~4-6 inches in height.

The incident occurred behind the lowered sashes in the view more

A distillate dewaxing unit at an oil refinery was undergoing hot hydrogen regeneration of the catalyst when an explosion occurred. Catalyst regeneration is a periodically performed procedure, in which the normal liquid hydrocarbon feed is stopped and a hydrogen-rich gas mixture is fed through the catalyst bed for which the normal operating temperature is raised from 700F to 800F. During the catalyst regeneration process the reactor pressure is increased from normal operating levels just below 600 psig to about 640 psig. A pipe failure occurred as a sudden and complete rupture of the 10-inch diameter line at the exit of one of the two reactors. Security video revealed that the release rapidly exapnded and the hot gas mixture ignited shortly after rupture. A shock wave from the resulting view more

A petroleum refinery experienced a catastrophic rupture at one bank of three heat exchangers in a catalytic reformer/naphtha hydrotreater unit because of high temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA). Hydrogen and naphtha at more than 500F were released from the ruptured heat exchanger and ignited, causing an explosion and an intense fire burned for more than three hours.

The rupture fatally injured seven employees working in the immediate vicinity of heat exchanger at the time of the incident. The workers were in the final stages of a start-up activity to put a parallel bank of three heat exchangers back in service following cleaning. Such start-up activities had resulted in frequent leaks and occasional fires in the past and should have been considered as hazardous and nonroutine. view more

A chemical plant experienced a valve failure during a planned shutdown for maintenance that caused hydrogen to leak from a valve and catch fire. Four chemical reactor chambers in series were being emptied of liquid using hydrogen gas as part of a maintenance procedure. Two heater valves were opened allowing 3000 psi hydrogen to flow in reverse direction to purge the reactor system for approximately 25 minutes. At completion of the purging process, a "light" thud was heard as the reactor empty-out valves are being closed. Smoky vapor was observed coming out of one of the reactor empty-out valves and the valve closing was stopped by the operator. The operator summoned a second operator for help at which time a second "loud" thud was heard with a much larger light and view more

A partial pressure sensor for an automated gas environment system (AGES) was not functioning correctly for pure hydrogen flow. While personnel were troubleshooting the problem, a burst disk ruptured resulting in a leak of hydrogen gas and actuation of a flammable gas alarm.

System troubleshooting involved the installation of a small hydrogen gas cylinder and temporary manual valve in an engineered ventilated enclosure adjacent to an instrument sample well. A burst disk associated with the temporary manual valve ruptured upon opening of the gas cylinder valve. The vented gas, exhausting through an engineered exhaust system, triggered the flammable gas detector. Personnel promptly evacuated the area in accordance with established procedures. Appropriate personnel responded to the view more

An alarm sounded at a recently inaugurated hydrogen fueling station in a major metropolitan area. One out of a total of 120 high-pressure hydrogen cylinders, located on the roof of the fueling station, failed in service. Gaseous hydrogen was leaking from a screw fitting of the cylinder, but the hydrogen was not ignited. Three hydrogen gas sensors detected the leakage and triggered an alarm that resulted in an immediate emergency shutdown, isolating the leaking high-pressure cylinder bank from the other three banks and notifying the local fire department. No personnel were allowed to enter the roof area, approximately 7-9 meters above ground level.

The police isolated the area around the fueling station within a radius of 200 meters. The maximum content of the leaking cylinder view more

A pressure relief device (PRD) valve failed on a high-pressure storage tube at a hydrogen fueling station, causing the release of approximately 300 kilograms of hydrogen gas. The gas ignited at the exit of the vent pipe and burned for 2-1/2 hours until technicians were permitted by the local fire department to enter the station and stop the flow of gas. During this incident the fire department evacuated nearby businesses and an elementary school, closed adjacent streets, and ordered a high school to shelter in place.

There were no injuries and very little property damage. The corrugated roof on an adjacent canopy over a fueling dispenser was slightly singed by the escaping hydrogen flame, causing less than $300 in damage.

The station's operating systems worked as view more

A single-stage regulator "failed" while flowing hydrogen gas from a standard 200 cu.ft. gas bottle. The regulator had functioned properly prior to the event through several on-off cycles. During the event, a solenoid valve was opened to allow hydrogen to flow, when a rather loud noise was noted and gas began flowing out of the pressure relief valve on the side of the regulator. It was noted that the low-pressure gauge on the regulator was "pegged" at the high side (>200 psi). The valve on the bottle was shut off, and hydrogen flow was immediately stopped. Hydrogen flowing out of the relief valve did not ignite. With the bottle shut off, the regulator was removed and replaced with another regulator of the same type, and activities continued.

The failed view more

An explosion occurred in a hydrogen liquefier/purifier commissioned in 1987, after it had previously operated safely for many years. The explosion took place in the nitrogen cold box section of the hydrogen liquefaction process in an activated carbon cold adsorber vessel. Process records showed that the explosion occurred at the beginning of the regeneration phase of the activated carbon adsorber. When the explosion took place, the outlet temperature of the activated carbon bed was still at -190C. The force of the explosion was estimated from a mapping of the debris to be between 10 and 100 kg TNT equivalent.Activated carbon is a general term that covers carbon material mostly derived from charcoal. It has an exceptionally high surface area and can adsorb large quantities of gases. It view more