Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes
Ignition Source
self-ignition

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. Property damages in the turbocharger included electrical cabling, melted siding, and heavily damaged pipes. The ammonia plant was shut down for more than a month.Five days before the incident, a problem with the CO2 absorber column led operators to open the vent downstream of the column. In retrospect, this excessive venting was an operational error. It caused a reduction in the suction pressure of the ammonia synthesis turbocharger and the activation of the plant emergency stop. The relief valve on the line between the turbocharger and the methanation reactor was then exposed to high pressure, causing it to open without the operator noticing. Production resumed the next day, but abnormal consumption of syngas led the operator to conduct further investigations. He discovered that the valve was no longer leak-proof and was allowing the gas to escape through a 47-meter chimney. The plant was shut down again to replace the relief valve.When the plant was restarted, the methanation reaction was initiated at 10:00 PM, the synthesis turbocharger started operating at 1:30 AM, and the incident occurred at 3:14 AM on the flange of the newly installed 6-inch-diameter valve. The incident was caused by vibrations in the relief valve, resulting in the quick release of the flange screws, which were probably not tightened sufficiently. In addition, when the relief valve was replaced, it was probably under-calibrated.

Incident Date
Nov 29, 2006
Setting
Equipment
  • Motive Power Systems
  • Compressor
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Piping
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Valve
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Flange
Probable Cause
Characteristics
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

The following actions were proposed as a result of this incident: The company in charge of valve calibration and maintenance will be subject to approval of the plant service inspection team. Plant operating procedures will be improved. The specifications concerning the mounting and revision of valves will be strengthened. An additional pressure sensor will be installed.

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