An anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) lecture bottle spontaneously exploded in a laboratory. No one was injured, but the lab was extensively damaged. The lecture bottle had split along its seam. Its cap and valve assembly were located to the immediate left.

Cause
The explosion was caused by hydrogen gas pressure build up in the cylinder. AHF comes in carbon steel cylinders as a liquefied gas under a pressure of 0.9 psi at 70 oF (i.e., the vapor pressure of the liquid). Though cylinders should be passivated with fluorine, which forms a protective coating, over time AHF may slowly react with the iron in a cylinder to form iron fluoride and hydrogen gas. The generation of hydrogen gas may produce cylinder pressures as high as several hundred psi.

Facility management confirmed that a hydrogen gas cylinder did not comply with the limiting condition for operation (LCO) for flammable gas control systems in the lab's safety requirements. Earlier erroneous calculations had shown that a release of the entire contents of the cylinder into the hood could not reach the lower flammability limit (LFL).

The facility manager determined that the LCO was applicable and immediately entered the action statement in the safety system, which required immediate termination of normal operations in the affected wing of the building. Because normal operations had already been terminated in the wing for HVAC maintenance, further efforts to terminate normal operations were not necessary. The hydrogen cylinder was removed from the hood, thus view more