A hydrogen leak at the flange of a 6-inch synthesis turbocharger valve in an ammonia production plant ignited and exploded. Hydrogen detectors and the fire alarm alerted the control room, which immediately shut down the plant, and the fire was then extinguished rapidly. There were no injuries caused by the accident, since the operator heard a wheezing sound and was able to run away just before the explosion occurred. The leaking gas was composed of 70% hydrogen at a flow rate of 15,000 cubic meters per hour. Property damages in the turbocharger included electrical cabling, melted siding, and heavily damaged pipes. The ammonia plant was shut down for more than a month.Five days before the incident, a problem with the CO2 absorber column led operators to open the vent downstream of the view more
The malfunctioning of the non-return valve of the hydrogen compressor caused the pressure between the hydrogen bottle and the compressor to rise up to the maximum allowed pressure of 275 barg. As a consequence, as foreseen by the safety system, the rupture disk of the safety valve broke and the hydrogen content of the gas bottle and the pipe section involved was released on top of the building. The flame was seen for a very short period by a guard, and could have been caused by the following series of events:
Expansion of hydrogen at the end of the exhaust pipe.
Consequent mixing of hydrogen and air up to a near-stoichiometric mixture and increase of gas temperature.
Mixture ignition due to sparks from static electricity generated by gas molecule friction against view more
During inspection of a hydrogen make-up compressor, it was discovered that a 1/4” stainless steel screw and nut that mounted a temperature gauge to a stainless steel pipe was resting against the side of a schedule 160 high-pressure hydrogen pipe. Constant vibration of the process equipment had caused the bolt to rub a hole in the high-pressure suction piping, resulting in the release of make-up hydrogen. The pipe was out of sight, and the problem was identified by an employee who heard the whistling sound of escaping hydrogen. The compressor was taken offline and depressurized.