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 incident involved an explosion of an oven that was heating decaborane for vaporization. In this incident, the heater controller was defective so the heating element was disconnected from the controller and plugged directly into a wall outlet. This situation allowed the oven to reach temperatures in excess of 400 °C within 20 minutes. While the temperature increased, the decaborane continued to expand, causing a significant pressure build-up within the oven. The pressure increase eventually caused the oven's viewing window to burst. A burst of burning hydrogen was emitted from the window and burned the face of a researcher who was hospitalized for approximately three weeks.

Summary

A gas-phase explosion in a storage tower with semichemical pulp at a paper mill has possibly been caused by combustion of a mixture of hydrogen and air. The hydrogen was formed by microorganisms in the pulp. Ignition may be due to electric sparks in connection with an electric field in the mist above the pulp.

Accident Description

A gas-phase explosion took place in a 1,300 m3 storage tower for semichemical pulp at a paper mill. The storage tower was 21 m high and equipped with an agitator at the bottom. By a pumping arrangement, the pulp was circulated from the bottom to the top through external pipes connected with the mill (Fig. 1).

On a given day the production was stopped at a time when the storage tower was loaded with 1,000 m3 pulp at a view more

An explosion occurred in an electrolysis system in a commercial facility. Electrolysis of a potassium hydroxide solution is used to produce hydrogen for a hydrogenation processes. The circular electrolysis cells are 1.5 m in diameter and 25 mm thick. Design current for the electrolyzer is 6,000 amps at 1.78 volts. Operating temperature and pressure is 70-90 °C and 435 psig. Hydrogen and oxygen product gases are separated from the electrolyte in separating drums. The system had been operating at the plant for 13 years prior to the explosion. Operating experiences had been generally favorable except for the need to periodically flush the system with water to remove sludge formations.

According to the investigative report, sludge deposits in the electrolyte passages started the 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

A facility replaced the copper tubing used for hydrogen distribution, with stainless steel tubing. This was done to address a fire protection concern related to the solder on the copper tubing being susceptible to heat, melting, and releasing a flammable gas. The facility maintenance personnel completed the replacement, noted the pressure on the hydrogen bottle, and left the building. When the maintenance person returned on the following day, s/he noticed the pressure on the hydrogen bottle had dropped 500 psi overnight, indicating a leak in the system. S/he notified the appropriate facility personnel and together they began to determine why the hydrogen had dropped 500 psi overnight. The hydrogen line originates at a manifold, which is part of a glove box atmosphere purification view more

An apprentice mechanic lacerated his right forearm while quickly sliding out from under a hydrogen prototype bus when the bus slipped off a hydraulic jack. The apprentice and another mechanic had raised the bus about 1 foot from the ground to position it on jack stands when the hydraulic jack tipped over. The apprentice went to the site medical facility, where he needed five stitches to close the wound in his forearm.

The mechanics were raising the rear of a hydrogen prototype bus, like the one in the figure below, and placing it on jack stands. After chocking the wheels, they used bottle jacks on each side of the rear axle to raise the bus high enough to place a 20-ton hydraulic jack under the differential. With the bus resting on a pair of small jack stands, they raised the view more

While filling a sample cylinder with compressed hydrogen gas, a quick-disconnect coupler fitting came loose within a stainless steel laboratory hood, allowing a small purge of the hydrogen gas to escape directly into the hood through ~1/4-inch Tygon tubing. The stainless steel quick-disconnect fitting struck the stainless steel bottom of the laboratory hood and the hydrogen gas caught fire. It is not known what caused the hydrogen gas to catch fire. The most likely sources of a spark was from metal-to-metal contact of the quick-disconnect fitting with the laboratory hood floor, or the discharge of static electrical charge generated by flow of hydrogen gas through Tygon tubing. The resultant narrow jet of fire, directed toward the left side of the laboratory hood, extinguished itself 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

An employee at a soap manufacturing plant died in a flash fire outside the facility's hydrogenation building. Responding personnel encountered a fire at the base of the plant's hydrogen storage towers, and they found the victim, who was burned over 90 percent of his body, some 50 feet away.

Officials determined that a pipe connection failed and that hydrogen, pressurized at 1,800 psi, ignited when it was released into the atmosphere, killing the plant operator.

According to reports, the pipe connection failure stemmed from pressures higher than design tolerance, which in turn were the result of over tightening that occurred during routine maintenance replacement. The new bolts were stronger than those they replaced, and the threads of the nuts had been partially view more