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 fatal accident took place at an onshore processing facility for slop water from the offshore petroleum industry.

Drilling fluids, or mud, are typically oil-water emulsions consisting of base oil (continuous phase), water (dispersed phase), and emulsifying agents. Used drilling mud, or slop, is mud enriched with water and rock cuttings from drilling --- typically 60-80% water, 10-20% emulated base oil, and 10-20% rock cuttings. The used drilling fluids are collected in slop tanks on oil platforms and later shipped to onshore facilities for further processing.

On the day of the accident, two operators were trying to remove the lid from a manhole on top of a 1600-cubic meter storage tank. However, they were not able to unscrew the rusted bolts holding the lid in place, and view more

As part of preparing for material disposal, a small fire occurred within a fume hood as a researcher was combining several spent ammonia borane (AB) samples that had previously been stored uncovered in the back of the hood for 6+ months. These AB samples consisted primarily of two 40-gram products of a 50wt% AB in silicone oil that had been thermally dehydrogenated. A small amount of unreacted AB slurry is believed to also have been present.

During project clean-up, partially spent (thermally reacted) ammonia borane (AB) residue from a previous experiment was mixed with a small amount of water to rinse the residue from its container. The water reacted with the spent AB resulting initially in a large heat release followed immediately by a fire. It appears that the water addition view more

A petroleum refinery experienced a catastrophic rupture at one bank of three heat exchangers in a catalytic reformer/naphtha hydrotreater unit because of high temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA). Hydrogen and naphtha at more than 500F were released from the ruptured heat exchanger and ignited, causing an explosion and an intense fire burned for more than three hours.

The rupture fatally injured seven employees working in the immediate vicinity of heat exchanger at the time of the incident. The workers were in the final stages of a start-up activity to put a parallel bank of three heat exchangers back in service following cleaning. Such start-up activities had resulted in frequent leaks and occasional fires in the past and should have been considered as hazardous and nonroutine. view more

An explosion occurred in a hydrogen liquefier/purifier commissioned in 1987, after it had previously operated safely for many years. The explosion took place in the nitrogen cold box section of the hydrogen liquefaction process in an activated carbon cold adsorber vessel. Process records showed that the explosion occurred at the beginning of the regeneration phase of the activated carbon adsorber. When the explosion took place, the outlet temperature of the activated carbon bed was still at -190C. The force of the explosion was estimated from a mapping of the debris to be between 10 and 100 kg TNT equivalent.Activated carbon is a general term that covers carbon material mostly derived from charcoal. It has an exceptionally high surface area and can adsorb large quantities of gases. It view more

A fire occurred in a continuous-feed autoclave system (fixed-catalyst-bed tubular reactor) when the rupture disc released, discharging hot oil, oil distillates, and hydrogen gas out a vent pipe into the autoclave cell. The flammable mixture was discharged directly into the cell because there was no system in place to catch or remotely exhaust the autoclave contents. The oil and gas ignited in a fireball that, in turn, ignited nearby combustibles (cardboard and paper), causing a sustained fire. The hydrogen gas and autoclave system were shutoff immediately. However, a lecture bottle containing hydrogen sulfide was heated by the surrounding fire and ultimately ruptured with enough force to cause facility structural damage. (Lecture bottles do not have a pressure-relief device.) The view more

A hydrogen explosion and fire occurred in the benzene unit of a styrene plant in a large petrochemical complex. The unit was being restarted following a scheduled maintenance shutdown. The explosion followed the release of about 30 kilograms of 700-psig hydrogen gas from a burst flange into a compressor shed. Two men were killed and two others were injured. If it had not been a holiday, the death toll and injuries would probably have been much worse.

The operators were bringing the plant online and increasing the hydrogen circulation pressure. About 10-15 seconds before the explosion, they heard a pop and then a loud hiss of pressure being released within the compressor shed. Witnesses reported seeing a white flash and then a large fireball. The fires burned out in 2-3 minutes, view more

An accident occurred during setup for a popular hydrogen-oxygen balloon science demonstration at a local public school. The demonstrator suffered painful second-degree burns to his right forearm and was taken to the hospital. The paramedics feared that grave respiratory damage (due to flame inhalation) might have occurred.

The demonstrator had transported 15 helium-quality balloons, pre-filled with a hydrogen-oxygen mixture, in a large, black, polyethylene garbage bag. During the setup, he opened the bag to remove a single balloon for stringing and floating. Without warning, the entire bag of balloons detonated violently. Fortunately, the incident occurred an hour prior to the program and no one else was near. It was also fortunate that only a small box caught fire and none of view more

During the early morning hours on a Tuesday, a university support staff member was preparing for an off-campus community outreach program for high-school-age students in the community. One of the program demonstrations was to show students the reaction energy and properties of the hydrogen + oxygen = water chemical reaction. It was a demonstration that the professor and the staff member overseeing the program had done for over 15 years with no incidents ever occurring.

To prepare for the demonstration, eight balloons were filled, four with pure hydrogen and four with the proper combination of hydrogen and oxygen. The balloons were placed into a larger plastic garbage bag and carried outside to a university-owned SUV located next to the building's loading dock. The bag of view more