Overview
During start-up operation of a high-temperature, high-pressure plant using hydrogen, hydrogen gas leaked from the flange of a heat exchanger and a fire occurred. The leakage occurred for two reasons:

Insufficient tightening torque control was carried out during hot-bolting and an unbalanced force was generated across the bolts.
A temperature rise was induced across the heat exchanger as a result of a revamping activity, during a turnaround shutdown.

Background
Hot-bolting: In equipment and piping that operate at high temperatures, as the temperatures rise, the tightening force decreases, thus re-tightening of bolts is necessary. This work is called hot-bolting. The design conditions of the evaporator where the fire occurred were 2.4 MPaG, view more

A hydrogen cylinder was initially located in an adjacent laboratory, with tubing going through the wall into the laboratory in use. When the cylinder was moved to the laboratory in use, a required leak check was not performed. Unfortunately, a leak had developed that was sufficient to cause an accumulation of hydrogen to a level above the Lower Flammability Limit. The hydrogen ignited when a computer power plug was pulled from an outlet. The exact configuration of the leak location and the outlet plug is unknown.