Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes

A fire occurred in a hydrogen storage facility. The fire was reported by an employee who saw the fire start after he had aligned valves at the hydrogen storage facility in preparation for putting the hydrogen injection system into service. The employee escaped injury because he was wearing fire-retardant protective clothing and was able to quickly scale a 7-foot-high fence enclosing the hydrogen area. The local fire brigade was dispatched and offsite fire fighting assistance was requested. Upon reaching the scene, the local fire department reported seeing a large hydrogen-fueled fire in the vicinity of the hydrogen tube trailer unit. The heat of the fire potentially endangered the nearby hydrogen storage tanks. The onsite fire department, with offsite fire fighting support, fought the fire until the hydrogen supply was exhausted and the fire was declared out approximately six hours later.

The company identified the root cause as organizational and programmatic deficiencies that resulted in multiple component failures. The hydrogen control panel and associated equipment are vendor-supplied and maintained. The licensee determined that the vendor maintenance program and oversight of that program were inadequate. In addition, the site identified recurring problems with the system that had not been effectively resolved.

Analysis
An investigative committee performed a special inspection of the facility. The results of the inspection determined that the company’s overall response to the event was acceptable. The company and offsite support took appropriate actions to control the fire until the hydrogen burned out. The special investigation also determined that the company’s subsequent event investigation was systematic and comprehensive.

The company identified the lack of effective maintenance as a root cause of the hydrogen fire event at the facility. Three valves failed, starting the fire. According to the root cause evaluation, all of the failures were due to an inadequate preventive maintenance program by the hydrogen system vendor and inadequate system monitoring and management oversight by the facility.

Incident Date
Jan 24, 1999
Setting
Equipment
  • Hydrogen Storage Equipment
  • Vessel
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Valve
Damage and Injuries
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

As demonstrated by the fire discussed above, lack of adequate maintenance, system monitoring and oversight of maintenance of these facilities can contribute to the ignition of a fire that is difficult to extinguish and poses an extreme danger to fire fighting personnel. Properly maintaining, monitoring and overseeing of hydrogen storage facility equipment can minimize the risk of fire or explosion.