Incident Synopsis
During routine facility maintenance of an automatic battery charging system, 6 of 27 nickel cadmium batteries being reinstalled exploded.

Cause
Inadequate work procedures in that a probable cause was ignition of accumulated hydrogen gas by a spark generated during the replacement work, and inadequate ventilation of the battery area; a second probable cause was stopped up vent caps, resulting from contaminated electrolyte, which permitted hydrogen pressure build up to an explosive force in the 6 batteries.

 

A large, hydrogen-cooled generator is driven by steam turbines at a power station. During maintenance shutdowns, the hydrogen cooling loop in the generator is purged with carbon dioxide. After CO2 concentrations are measured with a densitometer to verify the complete removal of hydrogen, the generator is purged with air and the maintenance is performed.

This purging procedure was used prior to the explosion. The CO2 reading was reported to be 100 percent CO2 at the top of the generator. The cooling system was then purged with air and a 1/2 inch pipe in the cooling loop was cut to install some new instrumentation. When the pipe was cut, pressurized gas was emitted at the opening. Workers assumed the gas was either carbon dioxide or air and proceeded with the new instrument view more

A guest student was weighing out less than 200 mg of sodium hydride. The material reacted with moisture in the air, producing hydrogen. The heat of the reaction ignited the hydrogen on the end of the spatula being used to transfer the material and at the mouth of the bag holding the stock material (approximately 48 to 50 g). The student attempted to smother the flames with a cotton lab coat hanging nearby. He quickly determined that the lab coat was insufficient to smother the flames and entered the adjoining lab to get a fire extinguisher and warn other lab workers in the area. The other lab workers exited the lab, warned others in the area, pulled the fire alarm and called the laboratory shift supervisor. The student extinguished the fire with the fire extinguisher, then left the view more

An experienced researcher with 30+ years of laboratory experience (including working with air-sensitive compounds) was disposing of a small vial of catalyst and hydride powder left in the laboratory by a post-doc. The researcher emptied the vial into a container of mineral oil inside a glove box, but a small amount of the hydride powder adhered to the wall of the vial. The vial was then removed from the glove box and brought over to a tall waste jar in the laboratory that contained isopropanol. (Isopropanol is the first (slowest-acting) pacifier used when deactivating pyrophoric hydrides.) The vial was opened and inverted over the isopropanol jar and the residue powder was tapped into the jar. There was a "small flash of flame" that quickly extinguished itself.

During preparation of a new hydrogen storage material, ammonia borane (AB) loaded onto mesoporous carbon, an unexpected incident was observed. As with all procedures with new materials the work is conducted on a small scale and in a laboratory fume hood. They followed the procedures that they had used for absorption of ammonia borane onto mesoporous silica without incident.

To absorb the solid AB into a scaffold material they dissolve AB in a dry aprotic polar solvent, THF. The saturated solution of AB in THF is added to the mesoporous carbon material in a round bottom flask, stirred for 10 minutes to saturate the mesoporous scaffold with AB and then the solvent is slowly removed under vacuum. At this point the sample is assumed to be prepared and ready for transfer to a sample 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