Within the International Space Station (ISS) oxygen generator, an increase in differential pressure across a pump supplying return water to a PEM electrolyzer fuel cell stack had persisted over a 4-month period and was approaching the shut-off limit for the system. This decrease in performance was suspected to be caused by water-borne catalyst fines containing platinum black and Teflon®* binder materials, shed by the fuel cell stack, and accumulated within the pump's inlet filter. Maintenance in the field was required.
A pipe rupture occurred in a steam methane reformer (SMR) process that produces hydrogen and export steam. The rupture occurred in a 24-inch diameter stainless steel (SS) pipe used to allow the process gas flow to bypass the high-temperature shift converter (HTS) during start-up. When the pipe ruptured, process gas contained in process equipment located upstream and downstream of the break vented into the SMR plant yard area. The vented process gas was a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, steam, and methane at 550 psig and 650 deg F.
A significant hydrogen leak occurred during refueling of the onboard hydrogen storage tank of a fuel cell-powered lift truck while it was completely depowered. The in-tank shutoff solenoid valve had recently been replaced, and this was the initial refueling event after the replacement. The fuel zone access panel was removed to allow constant visual leak checking with Snoop leak-detection fluid. The event occurred during the final pressure testing of the repaired system when an O-ring failed at approximately 4500 psi, releasing the entire contents of the hydrogen tank in about 10 minutes.
A pressure relief device (PRD) valve failed on a high-pressure storage tube at a hydrogen fueling station, causing the release of approximately 300 kilograms of hydrogen gas. The gas ignited at the exit of the vent pipe and burned for 2-1/2 hours until technicians were permitted by the local fire department to enter the station and stop the flow of gas. During this incident the fire department evacuated nearby businesses and an elementary school, closed adjacent streets, and ordered a high school to shelter in place.
A petroleum refinery experienced a catastrophic rupture at one bank of three heat exchangers in a catalytic reformer/naphtha hydrotreater unit because of high temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA). Hydrogen and naphtha at more than 500F were released from the ruptured heat exchanger and ignited, causing an explosion and an intense fire burned for more than three hours.
A distillate dewaxing unit at an oil refinery was undergoing hot hydrogen regeneration of the catalyst when an explosion occurred. Catalyst regeneration is a periodically performed procedure, in which the normal liquid hydrocarbon feed is stopped and a hydrogen-rich gas mixture is fed through the catalyst bed for which the normal operating temperature is raised from 700F to 800F. During the catalyst regeneration process the reactor pressure is increased from normal operating levels just below 600 psig to about 640 psig.