A power plant reported a hydrogen leak inside an auxiliary building. The given plant was in cold shutdown at the time of the event. The discovery of this problem was as a result of an unassociated event involving the activation of a chlorine monitor in the control building. When additional samples indicated no chlorine gas, the shift supervisor ordered further investigation into other plant areas. Because there was no installed detection equipment, portable survey instruments were used to determine gaseous mixtures. Hydrogen was detected in the auxiliary building at 20 to 30 percent of the lower flammability limit (LFL) for hydrogen. A level of about 30 percent of LFL corresponds to about 1.2 percent hydrogen by volume.

When hydrogen was discovered in the auxiliary building, the operator isolated the cryogenic hydrogen skid outside the turbine building and soon located the source of the leak as packing on a globe valve in a small line to the volume control tank (VCT). The operator opened doors that quickly caused the hydrogen to dissipate. The globe valve was of a conventional design and had no special packing. The globe valve was located in a vertical pipe chase where little ventilation was present because of ongoing HVAC testing. Besides being used as a cover gas in the VCT, hydrogen from the skid is used to cool the generator.

Incident Date
Apr 20, 1987
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Piping
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Valve
  • Ventilation System
  • Exhaust Fan
Damage and Injuries
Probable Cause
Contributing Factors
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

The lessons of this event fall into five categories: (1) proper in-plant communications during events, (2) proper valve application for use with hydrogen, (3) excess flow check valve set point, (4) heating and ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) maintenance and flow testing, and (5) hydrogen line routing. The operator is examining ways to improve communications in the plant during events and the training of personnel in reading portable instruments.

As another corrective measure, the operator is examining the use of other types of valves, such as valves with a diaphragm or bellows rather than conventional stem packing, in lines containing hydrogen. The operator is also examining the set point for the excess flow check valves on the hydrogen lines. These check valves are designed to limit the flow of hydrogen in the event of a large leak so that when combined with proper ventilation in rooms with hydrogen lines, hydrogen levels would remain within specified limits throughout the plant.

This plant had HVAC flow balancing problems during the preparation for plant startup. Generally HVAC flow balance is based on the heat loads and the resultant room temperatures under normal and accident conditions. However, this event demonstrates that hydrogen concentrations also may need to be considered to set a lower limit on the ventilation in rooms that contain hydrogen lines.