A partial pressure sensor for an automated gas environment system (AGES) was not functioning correctly for pure hydrogen flow. While personnel were troubleshooting the problem, a burst disk ruptured resulting in a leak of hydrogen gas and actuation of a flammable gas alarm.

System troubleshooting involved the installation of a small hydrogen gas cylinder and temporary manual valve in an engineered ventilated enclosure adjacent to an instrument sample well. A burst disk associated with the temporary manual valve ruptured upon opening of the gas cylinder valve. The vented gas, exhausting through an engineered exhaust system, triggered the flammable gas detector. Personnel promptly evacuated the area in accordance with established procedures. Appropriate personnel responded to the 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.