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

While research staff were working in a lab, a staff member opened the primary valve to a 0.2" (1500 psi) hydrogen gas line connected to a manifold supplying instruments in the lab. Upon opening the valve, the hydrogen gas line failed at a fitting on the switching manifold, releasing a small amount of hydrogen gas. The staff member closed the valve immediately, then inspected the gas line and found the front ferrule (of the compression-style fitting) to be missing. There were no injuries or damage to equipment.

In the follow-on discussion with research staff, it was learned that approximately one month earlier, a similar condition (front ferrule missing from a fitting) was found while performing a modification to a similar manifold. Following a critique, management expressed view more

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

The valve stem for a funnel valve to a solution neutralization tank was found to be separated from the body of the valve. This valve is used for purging hydrogen gas from the vessel. The functional classification of this valve is safety-significant. The "as-found" condition of the affected valve prevented the valve from performing its intended design function.

The affected valve is a one-half inch polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ball valve. The valve has an extension shaft coupled to the valve body, and the valve handle is coupled to the extension shaft, allowing the valve to be operated outside the process panel cover. The valve stem is cross-drilled and the extension shaft is pinned through the stem.

With this occurrence, engineering evaluated the one-half inch PVC view more

A power plant reported a hydrogen leak inside an auxiliary building. The given plant was in cold shutdown at the time of the event. The discovery of this problem was as a result of an unassociated event involving the activation of a chlorine monitor in the control building. When additional samples indicated no chlorine gas, the shift supervisor ordered further investigation into other plant areas. Because there was no installed detection equipment, portable survey instruments were used to determine gaseous mixtures. Hydrogen was detected in the auxiliary building at 20 to 30 percent of the lower flammability limit (LFL) for hydrogen. A level of about 30 percent of LFL corresponds to about 1.2 percent hydrogen by volume.

When hydrogen was discovered in the auxiliary building, the view more

Difficulties were experienced with two solenoid-operated globe valves in a charging system. When shut, the valves could not be reopened without securing all charging pumps. During a refueling outage, the two valves were disassembled and examined to determine the cause of the malfunction. It was found that disc guide assembly springs in both valves had undergone complete catastrophic failure. The springs, which initially had 25 coils, were found in sections of only 1-2 coils. Metallurgical analysis of the failed springs attributed the probable cause of failure was due to hydrogen embrittlement. The springs are made of 17-7 PH stainless steel.

Discussion with the valve manufacturer revealed that similar failures occurred on three previous occasions. These spring failures were also view more

A fire occurred in a hydrogen storage facility. The fire was reported by an employee who saw the fire start after he had aligned valves at the hydrogen storage facility in preparation for putting the hydrogen injection system into service. The employee escaped injury because he was wearing fire-retardant protective clothing and was able to quickly scale a 7-foot-high fence enclosing the hydrogen area. The local fire brigade was dispatched and offsite fire fighting assistance was requested. Upon reaching the scene, the local fire department reported seeing a large hydrogen-fueled fire in the vicinity of the hydrogen tube trailer unit. The heat of the fire potentially endangered the nearby hydrogen storage tanks. The onsite fire department, with offsite fire fighting support, fought the 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

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 facility replaced the copper tubing used for hydrogen distribution, with stainless steel tubing. This was done to address a fire protection concern related to the solder on the copper tubing being susceptible to heat, melting, and releasing a flammable gas. The facility maintenance personnel completed the replacement, noted the pressure on the hydrogen bottle, and left the building. When the maintenance person returned on the following day, s/he noticed the pressure on the hydrogen bottle had dropped 500 psi overnight, indicating a leak in the system. S/he notified the appropriate facility personnel and together they began to determine why the hydrogen had dropped 500 psi overnight. The hydrogen line originates at a manifold, which is part of a glove box atmosphere purification view more