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

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 water treatment plant used an electrolytic process to generate sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) from sodium chloride (NaCl). The strategy of using liquid sodium hypochlorite for disinfecting water instead of gaseous chlorine (CL2) is popular because the liquid is generally safer and falls under fewer OSHA and EPA standards. The further idea of generating the liquid sodium hypochlorite on an as-needed basis and in limited quantities also has certain obvious safety advantages.

One of the disadvantages of the electrolytic process is that hydrogen gas is also created as a byproduct. The hydrogen is supposed to be vented, by design, to the atmosphere before the liquid sodium hypochlorite passes into a holding tank.

For various reasons, in this instance it is believed that the view more

During an inspection, three potential safety problems were identified concerning the location of a hydrogen storage facility. The hydrogen storage facility is located on a building's roof, which is made of 30-inch-thick reinforced concrete. The following potential safety problems were identified during the inspection:

Leakage of hydrogen gas from the storage facility in proximity to the air intakes of the building's ventilation system may introduce a flammable or explosive gas mixture into the enclosure. Because the hydrogen storage facility, containing four 8,000-scf hydrogen tanks at up to 2,450 psig, is Seismic Category II, a seismic event may result in a hydrogen leak. Furthermore, the pressure relief valves in the hydrogen facility exhaust downward to within 6 view more

Hydrogen was stored in a plant in a 42 ½ ft diameter sphere made of 3/16 inch steel. The sphere was partitioned into two hemispheres by a neoprene diaphragm attached around the equator. Hydrogen was stored under the diaphragm, while the upper hemisphere contained air. An explosion-proof fan was situated in the upper portion of the sphere in order to provide a slight positive pressure on the top of the diaphragm.

When the plant was shut down for a local holiday, the fan on top of the hydrogen sphere was also stopped. During plant startup two days later, a violent explosion occurred in the sphere. The sphere shell was torn into many sections by the explosion, and some of the sections were propelled as far as 1,200 ft. Some of these sections struck flammable liquid storage tanks view more

During a facility walk-through, it was noted that a combustible gas (hydrogen) monitoring system installed in a furnace room was inoperable (the system had been unplugged). This system is used to detect and warn facility employees of an explosive or flammable environment. An explosive or flammable environment can only occur if there is a leak in the system, which would not be expected to occur during normal operations. When the system was reactivated, no leaks were indicated.

The incident had the following three causes:

A procedure describing administrative controls necessary to ensure safe operations in the area should have been developed and implemented prior to disabling the hydrogen monitoring system.
The hydrogen monitor was not hard-wired, which allowed it 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

While attempting to light the hydrogen flare inside a Metalorganic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) system burn box, a small explosion occurred, blowing the back section of the burn box off. Hydrogen flow was shut down immediately, and this MOCVD operation was suspended. Researchers made the determination that this was a minor incident and there were no injuries.

The follow-up investigation determined that the MOCVD HEPA filter had become sufficiently loaded to the point where performance of the burn box exhaust ventilation system was significantly degraded. The static pressure created across the "loaded" HEPA filter equaled the operating static pressure of the exhaust ventilation system servicing the burn box. This resulted in a region of "dead air" in 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

A hydrogenation experiment was being performed under 60 atm hydrogen, inside a high-pressure reactor cell. The experiment was conducted inside a fume hood and left overnight. The hood caught fire during the night, resulting in fire damage to the fixture, hood, and exhaust duct, as well as water damage to much of the building. Based on the local fire department investigation, the fire started from faulty electrical wiring that was used to provide power for reactor cell heating. The electrical fire ignited solvent that was in a dispensing bottle inside the hood, which subsequently overheated the reactor cell, rupturing the seals. The rupture released hydrogen from the cell and attached supply tank, further fueling the fire. Nobody was injured in the incident, and damages were limited. It view more