Hydrogen Explosion at Synthetic Liquid Fuels Laboratory Kills Two Engineers

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Forty-six hydrogen cylinders were accidentally charged with air instead of additional hydrogen during recharging operations at a synthetic liquid fuels laboratory. Cylinders were manifolded in batches of 10 or 12 to the utility compressor outside the laboratory. In normal operations, partly used cylinders containing hydrogen at a pressure of 800-900 psi were recharged to a pressure of 2000-2100 psi.

Pressure Relief Valve Triggered on Metal Hydride Storage Tank

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A metal hydride storage system was refilled using compressed hydrogen in a closed lab environment. The tank system is an in-house development and is optimized for high hydrogen storage density and use with an air-cooled fuel cell. The system is equipped with a pressure relief valve that opens gradually at 35 bar to protect the tank from overpressure conditions. The tank itself is designed to adsorb 400 g of hydrogen at a pressure less than 15 bar.

Potential Catalyst Fire Hazard with Oxygen Generator Filter Change-out Maintenance

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Within the International Space Station (ISS) oxygen generator, an increase in differential pressure across a pump supplying return water to a PEM electrolyzer fuel cell stack had persisted over a 4-month period and was approaching the shut-off limit for the system. This decrease in performance was suspected to be caused by water-borne catalyst fines containing platinum black and Teflon®* binder materials, shed by the fuel cell stack, and accumulated within the pump's inlet filter. Maintenance in the field was required.

Ignition of Pre-mixed Inventory by Venting

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A steel tube with inner diameter of 6 mm and 10 m length was filled with radiolysis gas (stoichiometric H2-O2 mixture) at 70 bar for boiling water reactor simulations. Via a pneumatic valve, a venting line with similar cross-section and 2 m length, filled with atmospheric air, was connected.

For venting the tube, the valve was opened (fast) and an explosion occurred.

Hydrogen Balloon Incident

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

During the early morning hours on a Tuesday, a university support staff member was preparing for an off-campus community outreach program for high-school-age students in the community. One of the program demonstrations was to show students the reaction energy and properties of the hydrogen + oxygen = water chemical reaction. It was a demonstration that the professor and the staff member overseeing the program had done for over 15 years with no incidents ever occurring.

Two 55-Gallon Drums Rupture due to Over-Pressurization and Release Contents

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

An over-pressurization of two 55-gallon drums of waste phosphoric acid resulted in a material failure of the drum bottoms, releasing the contents of both drums (about 100 gallons) onto the facility floor. The spillage was collected within the sumps that are part of the facility's spill control system. The waste material had been packaged into DOT-specified containers earlier that day and the drums were placed into an assigned storage cell. That evening a staff member heard a noise in the high bay where hazardous wastes are stored.

Ignition of Syngas Leak from Ammonia Production Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

During restart of an ammonia production plant, syngas (50% hydrogen mixed with methane, ammonia, and nitrogen) leaking from a flange directly downstream of the synthesis reactor ignited. The plant had been shut down for about 90 minutes due to a technical problem. Alerted by the plant fire alarm, the operator activated the emergency shutdown, which isolated and depressurized the synthesis loop. Steam was sprayed onto the leak site to dampen the fire, which was brought under control 55 minutes later.

Hydrogen Leak Ignites and Explodes in an Ammonia Production Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A hydrogen leak at the flange of a 6-inch synthesis turbocharger valve in an ammonia production plant ignited and exploded. Hydrogen detectors and the fire alarm alerted the control room, which immediately shut down the plant, and the fire was then extinguished rapidly. There were no injuries caused by the accident, since the operator heard a wheezing sound and was able to run away just before the explosion occurred. The leaking gas was composed of 70% hydrogen at a flow rate of 15,000 cubic meters per hour.

Hydrogen Explosion in a Concrete Block Production Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A trained operator was blending water, sand, anhydrite, lime, cement, pulverized fly ash, and powdered aluminum in a mixing chamber to produce material for making concrete building blocks. In the blending process, sand and water are mixed to form a slurry, and then the powders are dispensed automatically into the mix by a computer-controlled system. Finally, a slurry of glycol-coated aluminum powder is added in the last few seconds before the mix is discharged into a car, and then molds are filled from the car.

Pressure Relief Device Fails at Fueling Station

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

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.

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