Severity
Incident
Was Hydrogen Released?
Yes
Was There Ignition?
Yes
Incident Date
Dec 31, 1969
Equipment
  • Hydrogen Storage Equipment
  • Vessel
  • Safety Systems
  • Fire-Extinguishing Equipment
Damage and Injuries
Characteristics
When Incident Was Discovered
Lessons Learned

The use of inerting gas or other means of separation should be employed when conducting mechanical work where hydrogen gas could be present. More importantly, per CGA S1.3, the vessel should be equipped with a dual relief system that can isolate one side from the other and allow a rupture disc to be changed without exposing the operator to hydrogen.

In the second incident, the cracking of the outer mild steel vacuum jacket was more than likely related to the coefficient of thermal expansion of steel, which defines how much the material will contract when its temperature is decreased. The temperature of cryogenic liquid nitrogen is at -195.8 °C (-320.44 °F), and the linear coefficient of thermal expansion of 1020 steel at room temperature is 12 x10-6 1/0 °C. Thus, the significant contraction in the steel due to the instantaneous temperature reduction created localized stresses, which cracked under the vacuum pressure of the system. Some other method of controlling the fire should have been employed. In addition, the metal would have been made much more brittle due to the low temperature.

All relevant personnel should receive at least basic training on the proper selection of fire extinguishing techniques for the given scenarios they are likely to encounter.

Liquid nitrogen should not be used to put out a hydrogen fire. It is very difficult to put out a gaseous hydrogen fire, plus had the liquid nitrogen not cracked the nearby vessel's shell, it certainly could have cracked the original vessel. It could also have plugged up the stack by freezing at liquid hydrogen temperatures.

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