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.

Overview
A solution of potassium carbonate was being drawn off to an inventory tank for a turnaround/shutdown maintenance activity at a refinery's hydrogen production unit. On the day of the incident, the solution level in the tower wasn't checked as it should have been, which resulted in hydrogen gas flowing back into the tank until the increased pressure caused the tank to explode. The direct cause of the incident was the workers neglecting to check the solution level in the tower. It is not known whether the potential for backflow of hydrogen gas into the inventory tank was understood beforehand or not.

Incident Synopsis
An explosion occurred due to unexpected backflow of hydrogen gas while a solution of potassium carbonate was being drawn off to an view more

Summary
A hydrogen explosion occurred at a plant, damaging a wall adjacent to the hydrogen storage assembly. The investigation revealed that the explosion was the consequence of deficiencies in components integral to the hydrogen storage assembly, and that this assembly belonged to a supplier contracted to provide hydrogen to the plant. The analysis revealed that had the supplier properly installed and maintained this equipment, this incident would have been prevented. By receiving assurance, on an ongoing basis, that the supplier was properly maintaining this equipment, the company could have also reduced the chance of occurrence of this incident.

Background
A hydrogen supplier was awarded a contract in 1990 to supply the plant with hydrogen as well as to provide view more