A hydrogen reformer furnace at a refinery was shutdown for maintenance to remove and cap the inlet and outlet headers of some radiant tubes that had previously developed hot spots and been isolated by externally pinching them off at the inlet. A decision was made to leave steam in the steam-generating circuit during this maintenance operation to prevent freezing. After maintenance was complete, the startup procedure required the furnace to be first heated up to 350°C (662°F) prior to introducing 4136 kPa (600 psig) steam into the radiant tubes. Just after the 4136 kPa (600 psig) startup steam was introduced into the reformer furnace inlet, the control room alarm journal reported an extreme positive pressure spike at the same time a single loud bang was reported by the operations view more

The over-pressurization of a laboratory ball mill reactor designed for operation under slightly elevated pressures resulted in a serious injury. The apparatus had been routinely operated under argon and hydrogen pressures of 5-10 atmospheres for nearly two years. The apparatus had not been tested for operation at pressures greater than 10 atm.

A visiting intern, frustrated in attempts to hydrogenate magnesium silicide through ball milling in the previously noted pressure range, attempted to perform the operation at higher pressures. The approximately 70-ml reactor was loaded in a glove box with 0.5 g of magnesium silicide and six milling balls. Upon pressurization to 80 atmospheres, a 270-degree rupture occurred around the perimeter of the reactor. The blow-out of the reactor view more

An explosion at a coal-fired power plant killed one person and injured 10 others. The blast killed the delivery truck driver who was unloading compressed hydrogen gas, which is used to cool the plant's steam generators. Hydrogen deliveries are routine at the plant, occurring about once a week. Evidence pointed to the premature failure of a pressure-relief device (PRD) rupture disk, which had been repaired by the vendor six months prior to the explosion.

Summary
A faulty modification to a multiple-gas piping manifold allowed mixing of hydrogen and oxygen that resulted in a storage tube explosion. Several employees suffered severe burn injuries from the incident.

Incident Synopsis
An employee, without authorization, fabricated and installed an adapter to connect a hydrogen tube trailer manifold to an oxygen tube trailer manifold at a facility for filling compressed-gas cylinders for a variety of gases, including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and helium. A subsequent improper purging procedure allowed oxygen gas to flow into a partially filled hydrogen tube on a hydrogen tube trailer. An ignition occurred in the manifold piping system and a combustion front traveled into the hydrogen tube where, after traveling about a view more

Incident Synopsis
One man was killed and another severely injured while working with a portable battery power supply.

At a test facility, a water-submersible portable battery power supply was used to power lighting. The battery power supply contained two 12-volt lead-acid automotive batteries, a wiring harness, and switching relays mounted in an air-tight case suitable for submersion in water. The case possessed ½-inch aluminum walls and a 13.8-pound lid. The box had been used periodically over two years.

After charging all night, the battery power supply was moved into place and connected to the lighting. Two technicians started to test the unit. One technician rested his hand on the case lid while the second leaned over the lid and threw the switch to activate view more

An offgas system mishap involved two explosions occurring within an interval of about 3 ½ hours. The first offgas explosion was reportedly caused by a welding operation on an air line adjacent to a hydrogen sensor line containing off gas. The welding arc initiated a detonation within the offgas piping. The detonation was contained by the piping system but blew out the water seal at the base of the vent stack.The second hydrogen explosion in this incident occurred in the stack base area. Hydrogen accumulated in the enclosed base area after the water seal had been blown in the first explosion. The stack base metal door was blown off its hinges from the second explosion, and the reinforced concrete stack was also damaged. A plant employee walking by the stack at the time of the explosion view more

A person working in a hydrogen lab unknowingly closed the wrong hydrogen valve and proceeded to loosen a fitting in one of the hydrogen gas lines. The pressure in the 1/4"-diameter hydrogen line was approximately 110 psig. Hydrogen escaped from the loosened fitting and the pressure release resulted in the tubing completely detaching and falling to the floor. The person noted seeing a white stream around the hydrogen jet leak. The person noted a color change and noise change as the leak ignited (this happened in a matter seconds and he did not have a chance to react). The person left the lab and pushed the emergency stop button. Someone else pulled the fire alarm. Both of these actions were designed to close the main hydrogen solenoid (shutoff) valve. The local emergency response view more

An explosion occurred in a Microbiological Anaerobic Chamber of approximately 2 m3 capacity that contained an explosive mixture of hydrogen and air. A fire followed the explosion, but was rapidly extinguished by staff using fire extinguishers prior to the arrival of fire service personnel. The pressure wave from the explosion blew windows out of the laboratory, with glass hitting a passerby on a path outside and glass shards landing up to 30 m away. Ceiling panels were dislodged in the laboratory and adjacent rooms, and a worker using the apparatus at the time was taken to the hospital by ambulance for burn treatment. The worker subsequently fully recovered. Another worker in the lab at the time required medical observation, but was otherwise unharmed.

Mixtures of inert gases 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.

An apprentice mechanic lacerated his right forearm while quickly sliding out from under a hydrogen prototype bus when the bus slipped off a hydraulic jack. The apprentice and another mechanic had raised the bus about 1 foot from the ground to position it on jack stands when the hydraulic jack tipped over. The apprentice went to the site medical facility, where he needed five stitches to close the wound in his forearm.

The mechanics were raising the rear of a hydrogen prototype bus, like the one in the figure below, and placing it on jack stands. After chocking the wheels, they used bottle jacks on each side of the rear axle to raise the bus high enough to place a 20-ton hydraulic jack under the differential. With the bus resting on a pair of small jack stands, they raised the view more

Key:

  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire
Hydrogen Incident Summaries by Equipment and Primary Cause/Issue
Equipment / Cause Equipment Design or Selection Component Failure Operational Error Installation or Maintenance Inadequate Gas or Flame Detection Emergency Shutdown Response Other or Unknown
Hydrogen Gas Metal Cylinder or Regulator   3/31/2012
4/30/1995
2/6/2013
4/26/2010 12/31/1969     3/17/1999
11/1/2001
12/23/2003
Piping/Valves 4/4/2002
2/2/2008
5/11/1999
4/20/1987
11/4/1997
12/31/1969
8/19/1986
7/27/1991
12/19/2004
2/6/2008
10/3/2008
4/5/2006
5/1/2007
9/19/2007
10/31/1980
2/7/2009 1/24/1999
2/24/2006
6/8/1998
12/31/1969
2/7/2009

9/1/1992
10/31/1980

10/3/2008  
Tubing/Fittings/Hose   9/23/1999
8/2/2004
8/6/2008
9/19/2007
1/1/1982 9/30/2004
10/7/2005
  10/7/2005  
Compressor   10/5/2009
6/10/2007
8/21/2008
1/15/2019
    10/5/2009 8/21/2008  
Liquid Hydrogen Tank or Delivery Truck 4/27/1989 12/19/2004
1/19/2009
8/6/2004 12/31/1969   1/1/1974 12/17/2004
Pressure Relief Device 7/25/2013
5/4/2012
1/15/2002
1/08/2007
12/31/1969        
Instrument 1/15/2019 3/17/1999
12/31/1969
2/6/2013
    11/13/73    
Hydrogen Generation Equipment 7/27/1999     10/23/2001      
Vehicle or Lift Truck   7/21/2011         2/8/2011
12/9/2010
Fuel Dispenser   8/2/2004
5/1/2007
6/11/2007
9/19/2007
  2/24/2006
1/22/2009
     
Fuel Cell Stack            

5/3/2004
12/9/2010
2/8/2011

Hydrogen Cooled Generator       12/31/1969
2/7/2009
     
Other (floor drain, lab
anaerobic chamber,
heated glassware,
test chamber,
gaseous hydrogen
composite cylinder,
delivery truck)
  11/14/1994
7/21/2011
7/27/1999
6/28/2010
8/21/2008
12/31/1969
3/22/2018
    6/10/2019
  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire