An explosion occurred within the hydrogen processing system of a chemical plant that produces sodium chlorate for bleaching pulp and paper. The chemical process utilizes electrolytic cells and is pH-dependent. Hydrogen is produced as a byproduct and is utilized as a fuel.

At the time of the incident, the plant was at an abnormal operating level of 25% capacity. A non-routine maintenance operation to repair high-pH liquid piping was in progress. To assist, operations personnel rerouted the high-pH liquid stream to the plant sump. However, in doing this, the liquid eventually made its way back into the electrolytic process by design. Ultimately this created the root cause of the explosive condition in that the pH of the electrolytic process increased faster than the computer- view more

DESCRIPTION: On a Friday afternoon in 2007 a traffic accident occurred at the corner of two urban streets. Two vehicles were involved. Each vehicle contained a single driver (no passengers). Vehicle 1 was a Fuel Cell Vehicle. Vehicle 2 was a conventional Toyota Camry. Vehicle 1 was traveling west, approaching an intersection with a green light, and proceeded into the intersection. Vehicle 2 was traveling north on a cross street. The driver of Vehicle 2 incorrectly perceived a green light and proceeded into the intersection. The vehicles collided in the intersection.

RESPONSE: The police were coincidentally in the area and able to respond quickly to the site. The vehicles were moved out of the intersection. Vehicle 1 (fuel cell vehicle) shut down upon impact and was pushed out of view more

Hydrogen and chlorine concentrations at a certain plant are measured once each shift. On the morning of the explosion, the hydrogen concentration in the chlorine header leaving the cell bank was 0.47 percent. After passing through the chlorine coolers and liquid/gas separators, the hydrogen concentration of the gas streams increased to 2.5-3.2 percent H2, i.e., 63-80 percent of the lower flammability limit.

About 5 hours after the measurements were made, the DC power to the electrolysis cell bank was shut down because of intermittent power supply problems. At that time, a low-order explosion was heard from the chlorine dryer area of the plant. Thirty seconds later, chlorine gas began escaping from the chlorine header pumps, and another explosion occurred in the electrolysis cell view more

Overview: A pipe end containing fuel oil corroded at the outlet of a heat exchanger on the outlet side of a desulfurization reactor. The corroded pipe end leaked hydrogen gas, which exploded, causing oil to leak from the heat exchanger. The leaking oil developed into an oil fire, and the damage spread. The causes of the pipe end corrosion include the following:

There was a high concentration of corrosive substances in the process injection water.
The concentration of corrosive substances increased due to re-molding the heat exchangers.
The shape of the pipe cap was dead end piping.

Incident: During normal operations at a fuel oil refinery, a pipe end in a desulfurization unit developed a hydrogen leak, which led to an explosion. The pipe end was located on view more

The bulkhead between a liquid hydrogen tank and a liquid oxygen tank failed due to a series of events. Air services to the building were shut down for repairs and the facility had switched to an emergency nitrogen supply. Failure to switch back to service air when it became available, led to the mishap.

The emergency supply became depleted and two valves in the normal nitrogen purge system failed in the open position, releasing the high-pressure nitrogen gas from the manifold into the liquid hydrogen tank. The gas flow raised the liquid hydrogen tank pressure to 4.5 psig. That was sufficient to rupture the bulkhead wall.

A laboratory technician died and three others were injured when hydrogen gas being used in experiments leaked and ignited a flash fire.

The incident occurred in a 5,700-square-foot, single-story building of unprotected non-combustible construction. The building was not equipped with automatic gas detection or fire suppression systems.

Employees in the laboratory were conducting high-pressure, high-temperature experiments with animal and vegetable oils in a catalytic cracker under a gas blanket. They were using a liquefied petroleum gas burner to supply heat in the process.

Investigators believe that a large volume of hydrogen leaked into the room through a pump seal or a pipe union, spread throughout the laboratory, and ignited after coming into contact with the view more

Overview
During start-up operation of a high-temperature, high-pressure plant using hydrogen, hydrogen gas leaked from the flange of a heat exchanger and a fire occurred. The leakage occurred for two reasons:

Insufficient tightening torque control was carried out during hot-bolting and an unbalanced force was generated across the bolts.
A temperature rise was induced across the heat exchanger as a result of a revamping activity, during a turnaround shutdown.

Background
Hot-bolting: In equipment and piping that operate at high temperatures, as the temperatures rise, the tightening force decreases, thus re-tightening of bolts is necessary. This work is called hot-bolting. The design conditions of the evaporator where the fire occurred were 2.4 MPaG, view more

Incident Synopsis
While transferring liquid H2 from a tanker, the burst disk ruptured at 50 psi. The pressure limit for the operation was 30 psi.

Cause
The operator turned on the pressure valve and left it unattended, permitting pressure buildup past the allowed 30 psi.

Incident Synopsis
A H2 delivery truck accident occurred on a highway. The truck was pulling a trailer containing gaseous H2. Upon entering a sharp curve, the truck and trailer started to weave and pushed to the side of the road. The truck and trailer rolled about 40 feet downhill; the trailer rolled over 1 1/2 times and the tractor once, ending in the upright position with the driver still in his seat. The truck was completely totaled, but little damage was incurred by the trailer. The trailer shell was satisfactory with normal venting through the stack. The rear cabinet doors were warped shut.

Cause

The accident occurred on a bad road, which was steep with many sharp curves. The driver was going too fast for the road conditions and the type of trailer being view more

Incident Synopsis
During transfer of liquid H2 from a commercial tank trailer to a receiving vessel, a leak developed in a bayonet fitting at the trailer/facility connection. The leak produced liquid H2 spray which enveloped the rear of the truck where the hand-operated shutoff valve was located. Emergency trained personnel, wearing protective clothing, except for proper shoes, entered the area and shut off the flow control valve. Reentry personnel suffered frost bite of their feet when shoes became frozen to the water-wetted rear deck of the truck.

Cause
A loose hose flange connection allowed leakage of cold fluid through the lubricated bayonet seal. This allowed cold fluid to contact and shrink the 'O' ring seal (made of Buna-N rubber), thus permitting view more

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