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.

A steel tube with inner diameter of 6 mm and 10 m length was filled with radiolysis gas (stoichiometric H2-O2 mixture) at 70 bar for boiling water reactor simulations. Via a pneumatic valve, a venting line with similar cross-section and 2 m length, filled with atmospheric air, was connected.

For venting the tube, the valve was opened (fast) and an explosion occurred.

Explanation: Due to diffusion ignition in the leading shock, a flame flashed back into the pre-mixed reservoir and induced a detonation there. The tube system and involved measurement technique was destroyed. For safety reasons, the whole installation was set up in a protective container so that no person or other equipment was threatened.

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

A metal hydride storage system was refilled using compressed hydrogen in a closed lab environment. The tank system is an in-house development and is optimized for high hydrogen storage density and use with an air-cooled fuel cell. The system is equipped with a pressure relief valve that opens gradually at 35 bar to protect the tank from overpressure conditions. The tank itself is designed to adsorb 400 g of hydrogen at a pressure less than 15 bar.

For refueling, the secondary pressure on the compressed hydrogen supply container was set to 20 bar and the adsorption of the hydride was started without hydrogen flow limitation. Due to the exothermic nature of the hydride upon recharge, as expected a sharp increase in tank temperature was measured. The tank was uncooled because the view more

Forty-six hydrogen cylinders were accidentally charged with air instead of additional hydrogen during recharging operations at a synthetic liquid fuels laboratory. Cylinders were manifolded in batches of 10 or 12 to the utility compressor outside the laboratory. In normal operations, partly used cylinders containing hydrogen at a pressure of 800-900 psi were recharged to a pressure of 2000-2100 psi. Since the contaminated cylinders contained a highly explosive mixture of about 40% hydrogen and 60% air, it was decided to release the compressed gas to the atmosphere outside the building after grounding the cylinders. Two of the cylinders were successfully discharged, but an explosion occurred while the third cylinder was being discharged. Two chemical engineers were killed by the blast, view more

A distillate dewaxing unit at an oil refinery was undergoing hot hydrogen regeneration of the catalyst when an explosion occurred. Catalyst regeneration is a periodically performed procedure, in which the normal liquid hydrocarbon feed is stopped and a hydrogen-rich gas mixture is fed through the catalyst bed for which the normal operating temperature is raised from 700F to 800F. During the catalyst regeneration process the reactor pressure is increased from normal operating levels just below 600 psig to about 640 psig. A pipe failure occurred as a sudden and complete rupture of the 10-inch diameter line at the exit of one of the two reactors. Security video revealed that the release rapidly exapnded and the hot gas mixture ignited shortly after rupture. A shock wave from the resulting view more

A pressure relief device (PRD) valve failed on a high-pressure storage tube at a hydrogen fueling station, causing the release of approximately 300 kilograms of hydrogen gas. The gas ignited at the exit of the vent pipe and burned for 2-1/2 hours until technicians were permitted by the local fire department to enter the station and stop the flow of gas. During this incident the fire department evacuated nearby businesses and an elementary school, closed adjacent streets, and ordered a high school to shelter in place.

There were no injuries and very little property damage. The corrugated roof on an adjacent canopy over a fueling dispenser was slightly singed by the escaping hydrogen flame, causing less than $300 in damage.

The station's operating systems worked as view more

A trained operator was blending water, sand, anhydrite, lime, cement, pulverized fly ash, and powdered aluminum in a mixing chamber to produce material for making concrete building blocks. In the blending process, sand and water are mixed to form a slurry, and then the powders are dispensed automatically into the mix by a computer-controlled system. Finally, a slurry of glycol-coated aluminum powder is added in the last few seconds before the mix is discharged into a car, and then molds are filled from the car. Adding aluminum to the mixture results in a small amount of hydrogen gas evolution, which disperses from the car into the surrounding ventilated area and out through roof vents. In addition to being an ingredient of the mix, water also helps to keep the mixture cool.

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A hydrogen leak at the flange of a 6-inch synthesis turbocharger valve in an ammonia production plant ignited and exploded. Hydrogen detectors and the fire alarm alerted the control room, which immediately shut down the plant, and the fire was then extinguished rapidly. There were no injuries caused by the accident, since the operator heard a wheezing sound and was able to run away just before the explosion occurred. The leaking gas was composed of 70% hydrogen at a flow rate of 15,000 cubic meters per hour. Property damages in the turbocharger included electrical cabling, melted siding, and heavily damaged pipes. The ammonia plant was shut down for more than a month.Five days before the incident, a problem with the CO2 absorber column led operators to open the vent downstream of the view more

During restart of an ammonia production plant, syngas (50% hydrogen mixed with methane, ammonia, and nitrogen) leaking from a flange directly downstream of the synthesis reactor ignited. The plant had been shut down for about 90 minutes due to a technical problem. Alerted by the plant fire alarm, the operator activated the emergency shutdown, which isolated and depressurized the synthesis loop. Steam was sprayed onto the leak site to dampen the fire, which was brought under control 55 minutes later. Property damages included pipe insulation, the reactor's protective shutters, concrete fireproofing of the reactor structure, and instrumentation cables within 3 meters of the leak site. The flames did not affect the synthesis reactor itself, which was protected by a deflector. The view more

An over-pressurization of two 55-gallon drums of waste phosphoric acid resulted in a material failure of the drum bottoms, releasing the contents of both drums (about 100 gallons) onto the facility floor. The spillage was collected within the sumps that are part of the facility's spill control system. The waste material had been packaged into DOT-specified containers earlier that day and the drums were placed into an assigned storage cell. That evening a staff member heard a noise in the high bay where hazardous wastes are stored. Upon investigating, he discovered the breached drums and spilled material.

The only material released to the environment was hydrogen gas. The maximum concentration of hydrogen released into the facility was 0.035%, well below the lower view more