Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes
Ignition Source
resistively heated ceramic

A gas mixture cylinder was connected to a Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectrometer to purge residual carbon dioxide and water vapor. A staff member was preparing to use the FTIR instrument. Prior to use of the instrument, it must be purged with dry nitrogen to remove residual carbon dioxide and water vapor. When the gas mixture reached the instrument's globar (resistively heated ceramic) heat source, a localized explosion occurred. No injuries resulted from the explosion but the spectrometer housing was heavily damaged. The internal components, including the optics and computer hardware, appeared to be in good shape.

A mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen was inadvertently connected for the purging rather than dry nitrogen. The staff member, even though an expert in the use of these instruments and quite knowledgeable of the hazards associated with the use of flammable gases, failed to recognize that he connected a cylinder of 10% nitrogen/90% hydrogen to the system rather than dry nitrogen.

Incident Date
May 18, 1983
Setting
Equipment
  • Hydrogen Storage Equipment
  • Gas cylinder
  • Laboratory Equipment
  • IR spectrometer
Damage and Injuries
Probable Cause
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

Procedures for safe handling of compressed gas cylinders, marking design of gas cylinders and connecting lines, and arrangement of cylinders were reviewed and modified as necessary. The spectrometer was returned to the manufacturer for a careful examination to assess the full extent of the damage. The affected laboratory area was taken out of service. Additional conspicuous markings were added to flammable gas cylinders and connecting lines. Specific training on safe handling of compressed gases was provided for all compressed gas users. The FTIR spectrometer was physically moved to a different laboratory where hydrogen cylinders were not used. All hydrogen lines and valve connections were color-coded red.

Key:

  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire
Hydrogen Incident Summaries by Equipment and Primary Cause/Issue
Equipment / Cause Equipment Design or Selection Component Failure Operational Error Installation or Maintenance Inadequate Gas or Flame Detection Emergency Shutdown Response Other or Unknown
Hydrogen Gas Metal Cylinder or Regulator   3/31/2012
4/30/1995
2/6/2013
4/26/2010 12/31/1969     3/17/1999
11/1/2001
12/23/2003
Piping/Valves 4/4/2002
2/2/2008
5/11/1999
4/20/1987
11/4/1997
12/31/1969
8/19/1986
7/27/1991
12/19/2004
2/6/2008
10/3/2008
4/5/2006
5/1/2007
9/19/2007
10/31/1980
2/7/2009 1/24/1999
2/24/2006
6/8/1998
12/31/1969
2/7/2009

9/1/1992
10/31/1980

10/3/2008  
Tubing/Fittings/Hose   9/23/1999
8/2/2004
8/6/2008
9/19/2007
1/1/1982 9/30/2004
10/7/2005
  10/7/2005  
Compressor   10/5/2009
6/10/2007
8/21/2008
1/15/2019
    10/5/2009 8/21/2008  
Liquid Hydrogen Tank or Delivery Truck 4/27/1989 12/19/2004
1/19/2009
8/6/2004 12/31/1969   1/1/1974 12/17/2004
Pressure Relief Device 7/25/2013
5/4/2012
1/15/2002
1/08/2007
12/31/1969        
Instrument 1/15/2019 3/17/1999
12/31/1969
2/6/2013
    11/13/73    
Hydrogen Generation Equipment 7/27/1999     10/23/2001      
Vehicle or Lift Truck   7/21/2011         2/8/2011
12/9/2010
Fuel Dispenser   8/2/2004
5/1/2007
6/11/2007
9/19/2007
  2/24/2006
1/22/2009
     
Fuel Cell Stack            

5/3/2004
12/9/2010
2/8/2011

Hydrogen Cooled Generator       12/31/1969
2/7/2009
     
Other (floor drain, lab
anaerobic chamber,
heated glassware,
test chamber,
gaseous hydrogen
composite cylinder,
delivery truck)
  11/14/1994
7/21/2011
7/27/1999
6/28/2010
8/21/2008
12/31/1969
3/22/2018
    6/10/2019
  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire