Summary

A hydrogen generation plant experienced a fire and significant damage due to a concussive combustion event that started in a high-pressure hydrogen feed pipe.

System Description

A certain hydrogen plant is designed to continuously produce hydrogen at a purity of 99.75% and at a rate of 510 m3 per day. Hydrogen is produced in two banks of cells filled with a strong solution of caustic soda. Current is passed through the cells to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented directly to the atmosphere, while the hydrogen is piped to the gasholder. The gasholder is a low-pressure storage vessel capable of storing 28 m3 of gas. It is constructed in two parts. The bottom section is a large round tank. The upper section is an inverted tank or bell that is 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