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.

An operator went to purge a process tank per standard operating procedure. The operator reviewed the previous shift's purge time and determined the next required purge time. The operator found that the tank had been purged earlier than expected on the previous shift. Because the earlier purge time was not recognized, the 12-hour purge frequency was exceeded.

Background: On the previous day, during the night shift, an operator performed 12-hour hydrogen purges per the requirements of the standard operating procedure. Each of the hydrogen purges was completed within the required time limits. The operator correctly recorded the time and date that the next hydrogen purges would be required. The following morning, shift turnover was conducted. The direct and root cause of this view more

An explosion occurred in a Microbiological Anaerobic Chamber of approximately 2 m3 capacity that contained an explosive mixture of hydrogen and air. A fire followed the explosion, but was rapidly extinguished by staff using fire extinguishers prior to the arrival of fire service personnel. The pressure wave from the explosion blew windows out of the laboratory, with glass hitting a passerby on a path outside and glass shards landing up to 30 m away. Ceiling panels were dislodged in the laboratory and adjacent rooms, and a worker using the apparatus at the time was taken to the hospital by ambulance for burn treatment. The worker subsequently fully recovered. Another worker in the lab at the time required medical observation, but was otherwise unharmed.

Mixtures of inert gases view more

A large, hydrogen-cooled generator is driven by steam turbines at a power station. During maintenance shutdowns, the hydrogen cooling loop in the generator is purged with carbon dioxide. After CO2 concentrations are measured with a densitometer to verify the complete removal of hydrogen, the generator is purged with air and the maintenance is performed.

This purging procedure was used prior to the explosion. The CO2 reading was reported to be 100 percent CO2 at the top of the generator. The cooling system was then purged with air and a 1/2 inch pipe in the cooling loop was cut to install some new instrumentation. When the pipe was cut, pressurized gas was emitted at the opening. Workers assumed the gas was either carbon dioxide or air and proceeded with the new instrument view more

One morning a saltwell pump was placed in operation. Operation of this equipment requires that the Standard Hydrogen Monitoring System (SHMS) cabinet be in operation. Later that morning, during the morning surveillance rounds, the Standard Hydrogen Monitoring System (SHMS) cabinet was found not to be in the operational mode.

On the previous day, the night shift saltwell operator assigned to run the saltwell pump had placed the SHMS monitor in operational mode; however, the saltwell system was not started at this time. Shift turnover was conducted and the condition of the SHMS was turned over to the appropriate saltwell operator and shift manager. During the day shift the day shift operator assigned to the complex received approval from the operations engineer to place the SHMS view more

A facility representative observed pipe-fitters enter a containment tent around a riser with a tool bag that contained a mixture of steel and copper/beryllium tools. The top flange was loosened using a copper/beryllium socket and a steel torque wrench. When questioned, the pipe-fitters correctly stated that this was allowable for initial loosening and tightening of these bolts. A copper/beryllium ratchet was used to accomplish the bolt removal. The bonded riser was shifted to allow access for the IH technician. The standard hydrogen monitoring system (SHMS) cabinet and local sample showed no hydrogen/flammable gas was present.

While the continuous vapor sample was being taken, the pipe-fitters proceeded to put together the copper/beryllium ratchet and socket with a 10" view more

An unplanned shutdown of the hydrogen supply system occurred, affecting the hydrogen furnaces in the plant. The apparent cause was an inadvertent valve closing, which was contrary to the written procedure.

A preventative maintenance activity was being conducted on the hydrogen gas system. Shortly after starting that work, various hydrogen gas users notified the emergency response personnel that the hydrogen supply safety alarms sounded, indicating an interruption of the hydrogen gas supply. As a result, the hydrogen furnaces shut down. This shut down is an automated process which injects an inert gas (nitrogen or argon) to prevent the introduction of oxygen and its mixing with any hydrogen gas. All shut downs functioned as designed. As a precautionary measure, fire protection view more

An employee noticed an unusual smell in a fuel cell laboratory. A shunt inside experimental equipment overheated and caused insulation on conductors to burn. Flames were approximately one inch high and very localized. The employee de-energized equipment and blew out the flames. No combustible material was in the vicinity of the experiment. The fire was contained within the fuel cell and resulted in no damage to equipment.

The employee was conducting work with a fuel cell supplied by oxygen gas. The hazard control plan (HCP) associated with the work was for use with fuel cells supplied by air or hydrogen, but not for oxygen, which yields a higher current density. The technician had set up the station wiring to handle a current of 100 amps and the shunt was configured to handle a view more

Incident Synopsis
While a hot air dryer was being used to free a coupling in a hydrogen cryostat (an apparatus used to maintain constant low temperatures), a flash fire occurred. The H2 cryostat was being dismantled.

Causes
The temperature at the center of the cryostat was sufficiently low to liquefy air. The prescribed requirements for purging and bringing the cryostat to room temperature were circumvented. The H2 - air mixture was formed and ignition was assumed to be a spark from an open filament of the dryer.

Incident Synopsis

A hydrogen explosion occurred in an emergency battery container used to transfer fuel elements. The container had five emergency power batteries. Damage was incurred by the explosion.

Cause

The H2 concentration in the container increased because the battery charger had been left on charge. In addition, the container was placed in an un-ventilated airlock. Ignition of the H2-air mixture was believed to be caused by the relays and micro switches activated when the airlock door was opened.

Summary
A faulty modification to a multiple-gas piping manifold allowed mixing of hydrogen and oxygen that resulted in a storage tube explosion. Several employees suffered severe burn injuries from the incident.

Incident Synopsis
An employee, without authorization, fabricated and installed an adapter to connect a hydrogen tube trailer manifold to an oxygen tube trailer manifold at a facility for filling compressed-gas cylinders for a variety of gases, including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and helium. A subsequent improper purging procedure allowed oxygen gas to flow into a partially filled hydrogen tube on a hydrogen tube trailer. An ignition occurred in the manifold piping system and a combustion front traveled into the hydrogen tube where, after traveling about a view more