Incident Synopsis
While attempting to replace a rupture disk in a liquid H2 vessel, H2 gas was released and ignited. In fighting the fire, liquid N2 was sprayed onto a second liquid H2 vessel located nearby. This resulted in cracking of the outer mild steel vacuum jacket. The loss of the vacuum caused a rapid increase in pressure and rupture of the burst disk of the second vessel. H2 boiled off and was burned in the fire.

The rupture disk was being replaced with a load of liquid H2 in the vessel and no separating inerting gas. The H2-air mixture was probably ignited by static discharges. Rupture of the second vessel burst disk was caused by the low-temperature exposure of the mild steel vacuum jacket.

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