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

Overview: A pipe end containing fuel oil corroded at the outlet of a heat exchanger on the outlet side of a desulfurization reactor. The corroded pipe end leaked hydrogen gas, which exploded, causing oil to leak from the heat exchanger. The leaking oil developed into an oil fire, and the damage spread. The causes of the pipe end corrosion include the following:

There was a high concentration of corrosive substances in the process injection water.
The concentration of corrosive substances increased due to re-molding the heat exchangers.
The shape of the pipe cap was dead end piping.

Incident: During normal operations at a fuel oil refinery, a pipe end in a desulfurization unit developed a hydrogen leak, which led to an explosion. The pipe end was located on view more

Summary

A hydrogen generation plant experienced a fire and significant damage due to a concussive combustion event that started in a high-pressure hydrogen feed pipe.

System Description

A certain hydrogen plant is designed to continuously produce hydrogen at a purity of 99.75% and at a rate of 510 m3 per day. Hydrogen is produced in two banks of cells filled with a strong solution of caustic soda. Current is passed through the cells to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented directly to the atmosphere, while the hydrogen is piped to the gasholder. The gasholder is a low-pressure storage vessel capable of storing 28 m3 of gas. It is constructed in two parts. The bottom section is a large round tank. The upper section is an inverted tank or bell that is view more

Description of Circumstances
An incident occurred in late 2001, while a boiling water reactor (BWR) unit was operating at rated power. The utility was performing a periodic surveillance of the high-pressure coolant-injection (HPCI) system. Immediately after the test began, the HPCI system automatically isolated and the reactor building fire detectors actuated. The unit was then manually shut down. An examination of the residual heat removal (RHR) system revealed that a pipe elbow had ruptured near the high point in the RHR branch steam supply line leading to one of the two RHR heat exchangers (steam condensing mode line) in the reactor building. Fragments from the piping rupture caused some damage to equipment in the general area, but no significant damage to any safety-related view more

A power plant reported a hydrogen leak inside an auxiliary building. The given plant was in cold shutdown at the time of the event. The discovery of this problem was as a result of an unassociated event involving the activation of a chlorine monitor in the control building. When additional samples indicated no chlorine gas, the shift supervisor ordered further investigation into other plant areas. Because there was no installed detection equipment, portable survey instruments were used to determine gaseous mixtures. Hydrogen was detected in the auxiliary building at 20 to 30 percent of the lower flammability limit (LFL) for hydrogen. A level of about 30 percent of LFL corresponds to about 1.2 percent hydrogen by volume.

When hydrogen was discovered in the auxiliary building, the view more

During inspection of a hydrogen make-up compressor, it was discovered that a 1/4” stainless steel screw and nut that mounted a temperature gauge to a stainless steel pipe was resting against the side of a schedule 160 high-pressure hydrogen pipe. Constant vibration of the process equipment had caused the bolt to rub a hole in the high-pressure suction piping, resulting in the release of make-up hydrogen. The pipe was out of sight, and the problem was identified by an employee who heard the whistling sound of escaping hydrogen. The compressor was taken offline and depressurized.