Overview: A hydrogen leak and explosion occurred due to the installation of an incorrectly sized gasket at the suction line of a hydrogen compressor in a refinery hydrodesulfurization plant. The incorrectly sized gasket was mounted during the startup of the plant in 2001 and had never being inspected nor replaced.

Incident synopsis: The operating conditions were stable when the operator received an alarm indicating pressure loss in the circuit. He immediately instructed his field personnel to inspect the area. The hydrogen leak was confined inside the compressor room because the walls and roof were not provided with ventilation devices. An explosion occurred, causing two fatalities and the destruction of the compressor room and some of the surrounding area.

The System Shutdown logic activated and the compressor automatically shut down on high vibration. When the operator investigated the unplanned shutdown, two broken compressor head fasteners were noted lying on the deck.

A single-stage diaphragm compressor failed during boosting of high-pressure hydrogen ground storage banks. The compressor sources hydrogen from a 44 MPa storage bank as suction and discharges it at a stop set point of 85 MPa. The compressor capacity is 0.71 m3/min (25 scfm).

The original notice of failure was through an inter-diaphragm pressure indication and alarm. There should not be any pressure build-up between the layers of the diaphragm. Upon opening, hydraulic oil was found, leading to the assumption that the hydraulic-side diaphragm was leaking. Although spare diaphragms and seals were available for on-site repair, difficulty was encountered in attempting to remove the compressor nut above the diaphragms. Similar difficulties were encountered when the unit was returned view more

The sensing diaphragm of a pressure transducer (PT), as supplied on an outdoor hydrogen compressor, unexpectedly ruptured and released approximately 0.1 kilograms hydrogen to atmosphere from the compressor discharge line. At time of incident, personnel nearby were alerted by a loud 'pop' and dust disturbance. Simultaneously, the facility monitoring system detected loss of the PT signal and initiated equipment shutdown. Facility personnel then closed isolation hand valves to stop the leak, locked and tagged out the equipment, and restricted the area. The failed component, a cigar type PT rated to 20,000 psi, originally supplied and installed by the manufacturer as part of the compressor package, was removed and inspected. Inspection revealed severed wires, a separated wire housing, 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.