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 petroleum refinery experienced a catastrophic rupture at one bank of three heat exchangers in a catalytic reformer/naphtha hydrotreater unit because of high temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA). Hydrogen and naphtha at more than 500F were released from the ruptured heat exchanger and ignited, causing an explosion and an intense fire burned for more than three hours.

The rupture fatally injured seven employees working in the immediate vicinity of heat exchanger at the time of the incident. The workers were in the final stages of a start-up activity to put a parallel bank of three heat exchangers back in service following cleaning. Such start-up activities had resulted in frequent leaks and occasional fires in the past and should have been considered as hazardous and nonroutine. 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 significant hydrogen leak occurred during refueling of the onboard hydrogen storage tank of a fuel cell-powered lift truck while it was completely depowered. The in-tank shutoff solenoid valve had recently been replaced, and this was the initial refueling event after the replacement. The fuel zone access panel was removed to allow constant visual leak checking with Snoop leak-detection fluid. The event occurred during the final pressure testing of the repaired system when an O-ring failed at approximately 4500 psi, releasing the entire contents of the hydrogen tank in about 10 minutes. The dispenser hose/nozzle was immediately disconnected, and the leak location was quickly isolated to the tank/valve interface. A 30-foot boundary around the lift truck was cleared of personnel and view more

A pipe rupture occurred in a steam methane reformer (SMR) process that produces hydrogen and export steam. The rupture occurred in a 24-inch diameter stainless steel (SS) pipe used to allow the process gas flow to bypass the high-temperature shift converter (HTS) during start-up. When the pipe ruptured, process gas contained in process equipment located upstream and downstream of the break vented into the SMR plant yard area. The vented process gas was a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, steam, and methane at 550 psig and 650 deg F. The escaping high-pressure gas caused an energy release and subsequent fire. The fire was confined within the SMR plant, but equipment located near the pipe failure was damaged. The SMR plant distributed control system (DCS) worked 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 TeflonĀ®* 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