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

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