A sealed, unclassified electrical control enclosure, part of a listed and certified force-ventilated commercial hydrogen processing unit enclosure, exploded when the equipment manufacturer’s technician pressed the machine stop switch to complete factory commissioning procedure. The technician was forcefully hit by the flying metal panel holding the switch and sustained serious injuries requiring lengthy hospitalization and rehabilitation. Two were hospitalized. Two others were injured. Significant damage to the indoor facility also occurred.
A demolition technician noted an elevated combustible gas lower explosive limit (LEL) on a pipe that was being tested prior to cutting (No. 2 pipe). The No. 2 pipe was one of four pipes being tested. The other three pipes tested less than detectable for combustible hydrogen gas. Testing involves tapping the pipe and connecting the pipe to an Explosive Gas Detector via a tube. When an elevated LEL is identified, the pipe is allowed to vent and then retested prior to cutting. After tapping the No. 2 pipe, the work crew left the pipe open to vent and departed the area for the end of shift.
During a facility walk-through, it was noted that a combustible gas (hydrogen) monitoring system installed in a furnace room was inoperable (the system had been unplugged). This system is used to detect and warn facility employees of an explosive or flammable environment. An explosive or flammable environment can only occur if there is a leak in the system, which would not be expected to occur during normal operations. When the system was reactivated, no leaks were indicated.
The incident had the following three causes:
Saltwell Pump May Have Been Operated While the Standard Hydrogen Monitoring System was Not in Operational Mode
One morning a saltwell pump was placed in operation. Operation of this equipment requires that the Standard Hydrogen Monitoring System (SHMS) cabinet be in operation. Later that morning, during the morning surveillance rounds, the Standard Hydrogen Monitoring System (SHMS) cabinet was found not to be in the operational mode.
Difficulties were experienced with two solenoid-operated globe valves in a charging system. When shut, the valves could not be reopened without securing all charging pumps. During a refueling outage, the two valves were disassembled and examined to determine the cause of the malfunction. It was found that disc guide assembly springs in both valves had undergone complete catastrophic failure. The springs, which initially had 25 coils, were found in sections of only 1-2 coils.
On a given day personnel were removing a blind hub that had been used to temporarily isolate a portion of a gaseous hydrogen system. As a result of a sudden release of 2,800 psig gaseous nitrogen, sand and debris kicked up from the concrete pad and caused minor injury to two technicians.
During the investigation, it was found that:
While disconnecting a liquid H2 fill line from a liquid H2 trailer, liquid H2 escaped, burning a second man who was holding the hose. The man was burned on his hands and on his stomach.
The liquid H2 shut off valve was partially open, but both men assumed it was closed. Prescribed clothing was being worn.
A single-stage diaphragm compressor failed during boosting of high-pressure hydrogen ground storage banks. The compressor sources hydrogen from a 44 MPa storage bank as suction and discharges it at a stop set point of 85 MPa. The compressor capacity is 0.71 m3/min (25 scfm).
A refinery hydrocracker effluent pipe section ruptured and released a mixture of gases, including hydrogen, which instantly ignited on contact with the air, causing an explosion and a fire. Excessive high temperature, likely in excess of 1400°F (760°C), initiated in one of the reactor beds spread to adjacent beds and raised the temperature and pressure of the effluent piping to the point where it failed. An operator who was checking a field temperature panel at the base of the reactor and trying to diagnose the high-temperature problem was killed.
A significant hydrogen leak occurred during refueling of the onboard hydrogen storage tank of a fuel cell-powered lift truck while it was completely depowered. The in-tank shutoff solenoid valve had recently been replaced, and this was the initial refueling event after the replacement. The fuel zone access panel was removed to allow constant visual leak checking with Snoop leak-detection fluid. The event occurred during the final pressure testing of the repaired system when an O-ring failed at approximately 4500 psi, releasing the entire contents of the hydrogen tank in about 10 minutes.