What is Lessons Learned?

What is H2LL?

This database is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The safety event records have been contributed by a variety of global sources, including industrial, government and academic facilities.

H2LL is a database-driven website intended to facilitate the sharing of lessons learned and other relevant information gained from actual experiences using and working with hydrogen. The database also serves as a voluntary reporting tool for capturing records of events involving either hydrogen or hydrogen-related technologies.

The focus of the database is on characterization of hydrogen-related incidents and near-misses, and ensuing lessons learned from those events. All identifying information, including names of companies or organizations, locations, and the like, is removed to ensure confidentiality and to encourage the unconstrained future reporting of events as they occur.

The intended audience for this website is anyone who is involved in any aspect of hydrogen use. The existing safety event records are mainly focused on laboratory settings that offer valuable insights into the safe use of hydrogen in energy applications and R&D. It is hoped that users will come to this website both to learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others as well as to share information from their own experiences. Improved safety awareness benefits all.

Development of the database has been primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. While every effort is made to verify the accuracy of information contained herein, no guarantee is expressed or implied with respect to the completeness, causal attribution, or suggested remedial measures for avoiding future events of a similar nature. The contents of this database are presented for informational purposes only. Design of any energy system should always be developed in close consultation with safety experts familiar with the particulars of the specific application.

We encourage you to browse through the safety event records on the website and send us your comments and suggestions. We will continue to add new records as they become available.

How does H2LL work?

If you have an incident you would like to include in the H2LL database, please click the "Submit an Incident" button at the top of the page. You will be asked for a wide range of information on your incident. Please enter as much of the information as possible. In order to protect your and your employer's identities, information that may distinguish an incident (your contact information, your company's name, the location of the incident, etc.) will not be displayed in the incident reports on H2LL.

Lessons Learned Corner

Visit the Lessons Learned Corner Archives.

Key themes from the H2Incidents database will be presented in the Lessons Learned Corner. Safety event records will be highlighted to illustrate the relevant lessons learned. Please let us know what you think and what themes you would like to see highlighted in this safety knowledge corner. You can find all the previous topics in the archives.

An offgas system mishap involved two explosions occurring within an interval of about 3 ½ hours. The first offgas explosion was reportedly caused by a welding operation on an air line adjacent to a hydrogen sensor line containing off gas. The welding arc initiated a detonation within the offgas piping. The detonation was contained by the piping system but blew out the water seal at the base of the vent stack.The second hydrogen explosion in this incident occurred in the stack base area. Hydrogen accumulated in the enclosed base area after the water seal had been blown in the first explosion. The stack base metal door was blown off its hinges from the second explosion, and the reinforced concrete stack was also damaged. A plant employee walking by the stack at the time of the explosion view more

A water treatment plant used an electrolytic process to generate sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) from sodium chloride (NaCl). The strategy of using liquid sodium hypochlorite for disinfecting water instead of gaseous chlorine (CL2) is popular because the liquid is generally safer and falls under fewer OSHA and EPA standards. The further idea of generating the liquid sodium hypochlorite on an as-needed basis and in limited quantities also has certain obvious safety advantages.

One of the disadvantages of the electrolytic process is that hydrogen gas is also created as a byproduct. The hydrogen is supposed to be vented, by design, to the atmosphere before the liquid sodium hypochlorite passes into a holding tank.

For various reasons, in this instance it is believed that the view more

Incident Synopsis
During routine facility maintenance of an automatic battery charging system, 6 of 27 nickel cadmium batteries being reinstalled exploded.

Cause
Inadequate work procedures in that a probable cause was ignition of accumulated hydrogen gas by a spark generated during the replacement work, and inadequate ventilation of the battery area; a second probable cause was stopped up vent caps, resulting from contaminated electrolyte, which permitted hydrogen pressure build up to an explosive force in the 6 batteries.

 

An explosion occurred at a chemical plant in an analysis room containing various analyzer instruments, including a gas chromatograph supplied with hydrogen. A contract operator was performing work to install a new vent line to a benzene analyzer that was part of a group of CO2 analyzers, but separate and unrelated to the gas chromatograph. During the process of this work, a plant supervisor accompanying the contract operator doing the work had an indication of flammable gas present on a portable detector. This was in conflict with the fixed gas detector in the analysis room that was indicating that no flammable gas was present. As a precaution, the plant supervisor immediately cut off the hydrogen supply and, along with the contract operator, began the normal task of determining if view more

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.

The system had been designed for factory maintenance, and no contingency had been planned to handle field maintenance for such a circumstance. An initial assessment of hazards for the proposed filter maintenance raised the concern that opening the water line view more

An explosion occurred in a 90-ton-per-day incinerator at a municipal refuse incineration facility. Three workers were seriously burned by high-temperature gas that spouted from the inspection door, and one of them died 10 days later. The accident happened during inspection and repair of the furnace ash chute damper. The workers injected water to remove some blockage, and the water reacted with incinerated aluminum ash to form hydrogen, which caused the explosion.

Workers noticed that the post-combustion zone was full of ash and the ash pusher was not working properly, so they tried to remove the ash from the inspection door with a shovel. They discovered a solid layer of "clinker", which is formed by solidification of molten material such as aluminum. The explosion view more

A hydrogen explosion and fire occurred in the benzene unit of a styrene plant in a large petrochemical complex. The unit was being restarted following a scheduled maintenance shutdown. The explosion followed the release of about 30 kilograms of 700-psig hydrogen gas from a burst flange into a compressor shed. Two men were killed and two others were injured. If it had not been a holiday, the death toll and injuries would probably have been much worse.

The operators were bringing the plant online and increasing the hydrogen circulation pressure. About 10-15 seconds before the explosion, they heard a pop and then a loud hiss of pressure being released within the compressor shed. Witnesses reported seeing a white flash and then a large fireball. The fires burned out in 2-3 minutes, view more

In the fall of 2007, the operations team began a procedure (a written procedure was being followed) to sample the liquid hydrogen (LH2) storage vessels ("tanks"), and associated transfer system. This procedure was being performed to determine the conditions within the system, and if necessary, to purge the system of any excess gaseous hydrogen (GH2) in preparation for reactivation of the system. The system had not been used since 2003.

The LH2 storage system contains two (2) spherical pressure vessels of 225,000 gallons in volume, with a maximum working pressure (MAWP) of 50 psig. Eight-inch transfer piping connects them to the usage point. Operations began with activation of the burnstack for the LH2 storage area. Pneumatic gaseous nitrogen (GN2) systems in the view more

A hydrogen explosion occurred in a university biochemistry laboratory. Four persons were taken to the hospital for injuries. Three of these were treated and released shortly thereafter; the fourth was kept overnight and released the following evening. All of the exterior windows in the laboratory were blown out and there was significant damage within the laboratory. One sprinkler was activated that controlled a fire associated with a compressed hydrogen gas cylinder.

First responders from the local community and the university campus were quickly on the scene. Once the injured were attended to and the site secured, response efforts focused first on assessing potential hazards (electrical, fire, hazardous materials, etc). Campus personnel worked into the night to board up windows view more