Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes

A small electrical fire occurred (due to what is believed to be an electrical short circuit) inside a fuel cell test stand. Subsequently, a nearby hydrogen line made of flexible tubing was melted through and ignited the hydrogen, causing a small fire.

The electrical fire was easily extinguished. The hydrogen flame was extinguished by snuffing the flame, shutting off the gas lines and power to the test stand. No one was injured, but damage was incurred in the test stand.

Causes

An electrical short circuit occurred, causing a small electrical fire.
Electrical fire caused a flexible tubing hydrogen line to melt, thus exposing hydrogen to the fire.

Incident Date
May 03, 2004
Setting
Equipment
  • Electrical Equipment
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Flexible Tubing
  • Hydrogen Production/Use Systems
  • Fuel Cell
Damage and Injuries
Probable Cause
Contributing Factors
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

Immediate Corrective Actions

Fuel cell test stand was shutdown and sent to manufacturer for investigation.
Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher installed in laboratory.
Formal process hazard review performed

Long-Term Corrective Actions

Replaced all flexible tubing in test stand with stainless steel (316).
Replaced water knockout device with latest manufacturer's design on both the H2 and O2 lines to reduce the risk of gas flame by leached catalyst.
Installed a “High-pressure trip – Carbon dioxide” fire suppression system in the lab.
Installed a redundant hydrogen detector inside the test stand.
Installed an external hydrogen delivery system with stainless steel feed lines into the lab.
Revised the Standard Operating Procedure for the fuel cell test stand.