Hydrogen was released near the ground when the vent line from a 13,000-gallon liquid hydrogen storage vessel suffered damage from unusually high winds. The toppled vent line did not shear or tear, but sustained a kink that restricted hydrogen flow and created a back pressure on the vessel relief system.

Repair efforts were hampered by the potential for cold hydrogen gas, a flammability hazard, in the work area. Shut off or redirection of the hydrogen was not possible, and variable breezes made set up of safe zones uncertain. A protocol had not been prepared for this scenario.

 

Summary
A hydrogen explosion occurred at a plant, damaging a wall adjacent to the hydrogen storage assembly. The investigation revealed that the explosion was the consequence of deficiencies in components integral to the hydrogen storage assembly, and that this assembly belonged to a supplier contracted to provide hydrogen to the plant. The analysis revealed that had the supplier properly installed and maintained this equipment, this incident would have been prevented. By receiving assurance, on an ongoing basis, that the supplier was properly maintaining this equipment, the company could have also reduced the chance of occurrence of this incident.

Background
A hydrogen supplier was awarded a contract in 1990 to supply the plant with hydrogen as well as to provide view more

Incident Synopsis
During a standard testing procedure, a 3,000 psig relief valve actuated at normal line pressure, releasing gaseous H2. The gaseous H2 combined with air, resulting in an explosion which damaged the test facility.

Cause
The relief valve was improperly set to open at line pressure, and the inspection was inadequate in that it didn't identify this error. Contributing cause was poor design of the venting system, which was installed in a horizontal position, causing inadequate venting and buildup of static electricity.