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.

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

Facility management confirmed that a hydrogen gas cylinder did not comply with the limiting condition for operation (LCO) for flammable gas control systems in the lab's safety requirements. Earlier erroneous calculations had shown that a release of the entire contents of the cylinder into the hood could not reach the lower flammability limit (LFL).

The facility manager determined that the LCO was applicable and immediately entered the action statement in the safety system, which required immediate termination of normal operations in the affected wing of the building. Because normal operations had already been terminated in the wing for HVAC maintenance, further efforts to terminate normal operations were not necessary. The hydrogen cylinder was removed from the hood, thus view more

A small hydrogen fire occurred in a chemical process hood. A chemist was performing an experiment reacting manganese dioxide with hydrogen to produce manganese oxide and water. The chemist had left the process, which would take approximately one hour to complete, and was working in a nearby lab. While the chemist was gone, a second worker heard a pop, saw the hydrogen fire in the hood, and requested the activation of a fire alarm. A third employee in the area activated a manual fire alarm. The chemist, upon hearing the fire alarm, returned to the room, shut off the hydrogen fuel supply, and evacuated the facility. The hydrogen fire lasted for approximately one minute. The remaining small fire was extinguished about 10 minutes later with a HALON portable fire extinguisher by a 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

Installation of a 9000-gallon liquid hydrogen storage tank by a lessee at a building has not been evaluated for effect on the Safety Authorization Basis (SAB) of nearby facilities.

During review of an Emergency Management Hazard Assessment document, a reviewer questioned whether the SAB of nearby facilities had been reviewed for the effect of the installed 9000-gallon liquid hydrogen tank. Reviews by the facility management and facility safety personnel confirmed the evaluations have not been performed.

The direct cause was determined to be a management problem, with policy not adequately defined, disseminated, or enforced to integrate potential lessee hazards into the facility safety program documentation on the 9000-gallon hydrogen tank and delivery. The existing policy view more

An individual inadvertently connected a pure hydrogen gas bottle to a chamber/glove box as opposed to a 10% hydrogen (in nitrogen) bottle that should have been used. [The wrong bottle had mistakenly been delivered, and the inexperienced individual did not know the difference.] The hydrogen concentration increased within the chamber to about 9%. Since there was insufficient oxygen in the chamber to support combustion, the hydrogen did not burn, and was quickly diluted with nitrogen.

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.

Two scientists were changing hydrogen gas cylinders in an analytical laboratory. They were in the process of removing the cylinder cap from the new cylinder when a loud hissing noise occurred and they quickly realized that the tank was leaking. After making a quick attempt to shut off the tank, which was not possible, they left the lab and notified their supervisor.

After checking that everyone was out of the lab, the supervisor paged all staff in the vicinity to immediately evacuate to the staging area. Facility management and ES&H management were notified about the situation, and they contacted the local fire department to respond to the site in case the venting gas was ignited.

The first responders arrived quickly and spoke with facility management and the site view more