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.

Incident Synopsis
While attempting to replace a rupture disk in a liquid H2 vessel, H2 gas was released and ignited. In fighting the fire, liquid N2 was sprayed onto a second liquid H2 vessel located nearby. This resulted in cracking of the outer mild steel vacuum jacket. The loss of the vacuum caused a rapid increase in pressure and rupture of the burst disk of the second vessel. H2 boiled off and was burned in the fire.

Cause
The rupture disk was being replaced with a load of liquid H2 in the vessel and no separating inerting gas. The H2-air mixture was probably ignited by static discharges. Rupture of the second vessel burst disk was caused by the low-temperature exposure of the mild steel vacuum jacket.

Incident Synopsis
During pressure testing of a H2 tank for investigation of quick-release manhole cover, the tank burst at a pressure between 60-67 psig. Flow regulators indicated peak pressure of 67 psig.

Cause
The tank was over pressurized. A mistake was made in interpreting the blueprint, believing the tank was designed to withstand 150 psig, yet the actual design limit was 50.7 psig.