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.

Several workers sustained minor injuries and millions of dollars worth of equipment was damaged by an explosion after a shaft blew out of a check valve. The valve failure rapidly released a large vapor cloud of hydrogen and hydrocarbon gases which subsequently ignited.Certain types of check and butterfly valves can undergo shaft-disk separation and fail catastrophically or "blow-out," causing toxic and/or flammable gas releases, fires, and vapor cloud explosions. Such failures can occur even when the valves are operated within their design limits of pressure and temperature. Most modern valve designs incorporate features that reduce or eliminate the possibility of shaft blow-out. However, older design check and butterfly valves, especially those with external appendages such 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

An incident involved an explosion of an oven that was heating decaborane for vaporization. In this incident, the heater controller was defective so the heating element was disconnected from the controller and plugged directly into a wall outlet. This situation allowed the oven to reach temperatures in excess of 400 °C within 20 minutes. While the temperature increased, the decaborane continued to expand, causing a significant pressure build-up within the oven. The pressure increase eventually caused the oven's viewing window to burst. A burst of burning hydrogen was emitted from the window and burned the face of a researcher who was hospitalized for approximately three weeks.

A subcontractor employee was using a band saw to cut a 1" metal pipe when a flash fire occurred on the third floor hydrogen fluoride area. Subcontractor employees were removing all piping associated with the Anhydrous Hydrofluoric Acid (AHF) system. These lines were being removed during plant decontamination and demolition (D&D). The subcontractor employee was attempting to cut a 90-degree elbow located at the highest elevation on the 1" line, but the lowest elevation of the overall piping run. Since hydrogen is lighter than air, it is speculated that a minute amount of hydrogen gas had accumulated in the elbow.

Even though Safe Shutdown personnel had previously opened the system and placed it in a safe configuration, residual hydrogen fluoride could have still view more

A facility experienced a major fire in its Resid Hydrotreater Unit (RHU) that caused millions of dollars in property damage. One employee sustained a minor injury during the emergency unit shutdown and there were no fatalities.

The RHU incident investigation determined that an 8-inch diameter carbon steel elbow inadvertently installed in a high-pressure, high-temperature hydrogen line ruptured after operating for only 3 months. The escaping hydrogen gas from the ruptured elbow quickly ignited.

This incident occurred after a maintenance contractor accidentally replaced an alloy steel elbow with a carbon steel elbow during a scheduled heat exchanger overhaul. The alloy steel elbow was resistant to high-temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA), but the carbon steel elbow was not. view more

A person working in a hydrogen lab unknowingly closed the wrong hydrogen valve and proceeded to loosen a fitting in one of the hydrogen gas lines. The pressure in the 1/4"-diameter hydrogen line was approximately 110 psig. Hydrogen escaped from the loosened fitting and the pressure release resulted in the tubing completely detaching and falling to the floor. The person noted seeing a white stream around the hydrogen jet leak. The person noted a color change and noise change as the leak ignited (this happened in a matter seconds and he did not have a chance to react). The person left the lab and pushed the emergency stop button. Someone else pulled the fire alarm. Both of these actions were designed to close the main hydrogen solenoid (shutoff) valve. The local emergency response view more

A violent reaction occurred while hydrolyzing metal in water. The reactive metal treatment began with a review of the chemical inventory and setup of reaction vessels. The sodium metal was cut in shavings and added one at a time to the reaction vessel. After the second addition, an argon purge was added to disperse hydrogen gas faster. After approximately 10 pieces had been treated, the glass beaker shattered, releasing the contents of the reaction vessel (1 liter) inside the hood and causing the chemist's hand to receive superficial cuts. The process was being performed under a hood with all safety equipment in place. The employee was in personal protective equipment (PPE), but did receive two cuts on his hand through the glove. The treatment of reactive metals was being view more

The interior of a small high-temperature furnace, approximately 24 inches high by 18 inches wide, became contaminated with an unknown material later identified as magnesium. The furnace was disassembled to clean the unknown material from the interior surfaces, and while attempting to clean the bottom of the furnace, the technician tapped the upper lip of the furnace with a spatula and the magnesium flashed. The technician was stepping back from the furnace when the magnesium flashed. He received minor eye irritation and his eyebrows were singed.

Later that week the same technician was attempting to clean the interior surfaces of the top of the furnace and sprayed, as directed, the interior of the top with a water-based cleaning liquid which consisted of 91% water. He stepped view more

An apprentice mechanic lacerated his right forearm while quickly sliding out from under a hydrogen prototype bus when the bus slipped off a hydraulic jack. The apprentice and another mechanic had raised the bus about 1 foot from the ground to position it on jack stands when the hydraulic jack tipped over. The apprentice went to the site medical facility, where he needed five stitches to close the wound in his forearm.

The mechanics were raising the rear of a hydrogen prototype bus, like the one in the figure below, and placing it on jack stands. After chocking the wheels, they used bottle jacks on each side of the rear axle to raise the bus high enough to place a 20-ton hydraulic jack under the differential. With the bus resting on a pair of small jack stands, they raised the view more

While filling a sample cylinder with compressed hydrogen gas, a quick-disconnect coupler fitting came loose within a stainless steel laboratory hood, allowing a small purge of the hydrogen gas to escape directly into the hood through ~1/4-inch Tygon tubing. The stainless steel quick-disconnect fitting struck the stainless steel bottom of the laboratory hood and the hydrogen gas caught fire. It is not known what caused the hydrogen gas to catch fire. The most likely sources of a spark was from metal-to-metal contact of the quick-disconnect fitting with the laboratory hood floor, or the discharge of static electrical charge generated by flow of hydrogen gas through Tygon tubing. The resultant narrow jet of fire, directed toward the left side of the laboratory hood, extinguished itself view more