Incident Synopsis

A hydrogen compressor had been shut down for repairs and was being put back into service when an explosion occurred, resulting in property damage. The compressor was equipped with interchangeable intake and outlet valves.

Cause

The discharge valve was installed in the intake valve position, causing the cylinder head to blow off and release H2 to the atmosphere. The ignition source was not indicated.

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

A process area alarm activated. The alarm was caused by an instrument channel located above a reaction vessel off-gas system final HEPA filter canister, which indicated 25% of the lower explosive limit (LEL) for hydrogen. Since the only source of hydrogen is from the reaction vessel during the reaction of sodium with concentrated sodium hydroxide, the immediate actions were to shutdown the reaction process and place the facility in a safe condition.

The root cause was inadequate or defective design. Had the pre-filter drains been vented to outside the building, no hydrogen could accumulate in the process area. The corrective action for this is to complete an Engineering Task Authorization (ETA) to install a sample/drain collection system with loop seals to prevent any release of view more