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

Hydrogen was stored in a plant in a 42 ½ ft diameter sphere made of 3/16 inch steel. The sphere was partitioned into two hemispheres by a neoprene diaphragm attached around the equator. Hydrogen was stored under the diaphragm, while the upper hemisphere contained air. An explosion-proof fan was situated in the upper portion of the sphere in order to provide a slight positive pressure on the top of the diaphragm.

When the plant was shut down for a local holiday, the fan on top of the hydrogen sphere was also stopped. During plant startup two days later, a violent explosion occurred in the sphere. The sphere shell was torn into many sections by the explosion, and some of the sections were propelled as far as 1,200 ft. Some of these sections struck flammable liquid storage tanks view more