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
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.