A single-stage regulator "failed" while flowing hydrogen gas from a standard 200 cu.ft. gas bottle. The regulator had functioned properly prior to the event through several on-off cycles. During the event, a solenoid valve was opened to allow hydrogen to flow, when a rather loud noise was noted and gas began flowing out of the pressure relief valve on the side of the regulator. It was noted that the low-pressure gauge on the regulator was "pegged" at the high side (>200 psi). The valve on the bottle was shut off, and hydrogen flow was immediately stopped. Hydrogen flowing out of the relief valve did not ignite. With the bottle shut off, the regulator was removed and replaced with another regulator of the same type, and activities continued.

The failed view more

The malfunctioning of the non-return valve of the hydrogen compressor caused the pressure between the hydrogen bottle and the compressor to rise up to the maximum allowed pressure of 275 barg. As a consequence, as foreseen by the safety system, the rupture disk of the safety valve broke and the hydrogen content of the gas bottle and the pipe section involved was released on top of the building. The flame was seen for a very short period by a guard, and could have been caused by the following series of events:

Expansion of hydrogen at the end of the exhaust pipe.
Consequent mixing of hydrogen and air up to a near-stoichiometric mixture and increase of gas temperature.
Mixture ignition due to sparks from static electricity generated by gas molecule friction against view more

The System Shutdown logic activated and the compressor automatically shut down on high vibration. When the operator investigated the unplanned shutdown, two broken compressor head fasteners were noted lying on the deck.