What is Lessons Learned?

What is H2LL?

This database is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The safety event records have been contributed by a variety of global sources, including industrial, government and academic facilities.

H2LL is a database-driven website intended to facilitate the sharing of lessons learned and other relevant information gained from actual experiences using and working with hydrogen. The database also serves as a voluntary reporting tool for capturing records of events involving either hydrogen or hydrogen-related technologies.

The focus of the database is on characterization of hydrogen-related incidents and near-misses, and ensuing lessons learned from those events. All identifying information, including names of companies or organizations, locations, and the like, is removed to ensure confidentiality and to encourage the unconstrained future reporting of events as they occur.

The intended audience for this website is anyone who is involved in any aspect of hydrogen use. The existing safety event records are mainly focused on laboratory settings that offer valuable insights into the safe use of hydrogen in energy applications and R&D. It is hoped that users will come to this website both to learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others as well as to share information from their own experiences. Improved safety awareness benefits all.

Development of the database has been primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. While every effort is made to verify the accuracy of information contained herein, no guarantee is expressed or implied with respect to the completeness, causal attribution, or suggested remedial measures for avoiding future events of a similar nature. The contents of this database are presented for informational purposes only. Design of any energy system should always be developed in close consultation with safety experts familiar with the particulars of the specific application.

We encourage you to browse through the safety event records on the website and send us your comments and suggestions. We will continue to add new records as they become available.

How does H2LL work?

If you have an incident you would like to include in the H2LL database, please click the "Submit an Incident" button at the top of the page. You will be asked for a wide range of information on your incident. Please enter as much of the information as possible. In order to protect your and your employer's identities, information that may distinguish an incident (your contact information, your company's name, the location of the incident, etc.) will not be displayed in the incident reports on H2LL.

Lessons Learned Corner

Visit the Lessons Learned Corner Archives.

Key themes from the H2Incidents database will be presented in the Lessons Learned Corner. Safety event records will be highlighted to illustrate the relevant lessons learned. Please let us know what you think and what themes you would like to see highlighted in this safety knowledge corner. You can find all the previous topics in the archives.

During restart of an ammonia production plant, syngas (50% hydrogen mixed with methane, ammonia, and nitrogen) leaking from a flange directly downstream of the synthesis reactor ignited. The plant had been shut down for about 90 minutes due to a technical problem. Alerted by the plant fire alarm, the operator activated the emergency shutdown, which isolated and depressurized the synthesis loop. Steam was sprayed onto the leak site to dampen the fire, which was brought under control 55 minutes later. Property damages included pipe insulation, the reactor's protective shutters, concrete fireproofing of the reactor structure, and instrumentation cables within 3 meters of the leak site. The flames did not affect the synthesis reactor itself, which was protected by a deflector. The view more

Operators in a powdered metals production facility heard a hissing noise near one of the plant furnaces and determined that it was a gas leak in the trench below the furnaces. The trench carried hydrogen, nitrogen, and cooling water runoff pipes as well as a vent pipe for the furnaces.

Maintenance personnel presumed that the leak was nonflammable nitrogen because there had recently been a nitrogen piping leak elsewhere in the plant. Using the plant's overhead crane, they removed some of the heavy trench covers. They determined that the leak was in an area that the crane could not reach, so they brought in a forklift with a chain to remove the trench covers in that area.

Eyewitnesses stated that as the first trench cover was wrenched from its position by the forklift view more

A gas mixture cylinder was connected to a Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectrometer to purge residual carbon dioxide and water vapor. A staff member was preparing to use the FTIR instrument. Prior to use of the instrument, it must be purged with dry nitrogen to remove residual carbon dioxide and water vapor. When the gas mixture reached the instrument's globar (resistively heated ceramic) heat source, a localized explosion occurred. No injuries resulted from the explosion but the spectrometer housing was heavily damaged. The internal components, including the optics and computer hardware, appeared to be in good shape.

A mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen was inadvertently connected for the purging rather than dry nitrogen. The staff member, even though an expert in the view more

A significant hydrogen leak occurred during refueling of the onboard hydrogen storage tank of a fuel cell-powered lift truck while it was completely depowered. The in-tank shutoff solenoid valve had recently been replaced, and this was the initial refueling event after the replacement. The fuel zone access panel was removed to allow constant visual leak checking with Snoop leak-detection fluid. The event occurred during the final pressure testing of the repaired system when an O-ring failed at approximately 4500 psi, releasing the entire contents of the hydrogen tank in about 10 minutes. The dispenser hose/nozzle was immediately disconnected, and the leak location was quickly isolated to the tank/valve interface. A 30-foot boundary around the lift truck was cleared of personnel and view more

A fuel cell forklift operator stated that he observed a "ball of fire" coming from the left side of the forklift that seemed to flash and extinguish. Investigators found no external signs of a fire, but the forklift would not start. The fuel cell power pack access panel was removed to enable investigators to search for any internal signs of a fire. Some areas inside the fuel cell stack appeared to have experienced an electrical arc or some type of overheating. All connections were verified to be tight and secure. The internal fuel cell stack circuit board cover was then removed, and the circuit card on top of the stack also showed signs of overheating. After the fuel cell stack circuit board was removed, a broken drill bit was discovered on top of the fuel cell stack plates. view more

The evaporator pad in a fuel cell power unit installed in a hydrogen-powered forklift caught fire during operation. The evaporator pad is used for wicking the product water created by the fuel cell. The operator dismounted the forklift, observed flames coming from the fuel cell unit, and called for help. The facility fire brigade used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. The upper left corner of the fuel cell evaporator pad was burned entirely; the plastic bracket that holds the evaporator pad in place was distorted; there was some discoloration of the radiator. No injuries were sustained by the operator and no damage was sustained by the forklift.

The fuel cell unit continued to run during the incident, as did the onboard data acquisition device. Hydrogen concentrations view more

The incident occurred in the catalytic hydrotreatment plant of an oil refinery. The plant, which began operations in September 1997, has a capacity of 1650 tons/day of light fuel oil and 1450 tons/day of heavy fuel oil. The plant was designed to desulfurize the light and heavy fuel oil fractions produced in the refinery by treating them with high-pressure hydrogen over a catalyst to remove sulfur (producing hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct). The plant has two heating/reaction/fractionating sections to treat the two fuel oil fractions, but a single gas purification and compression section for the recycled hydrogen gas.

The heavy fuel oil reactor feedstock from the vacuum distillation plant is sent to the heavy fuel oil treatment section through three pipelines equipped with flow view more

Hydrogen alarms went off in a research laboratory and the fire department was called, but no hydrogen leak was detected. The hydrogen system was leak-checked with helium and found to be leak-free except for a very small leak in the manifold area. The manifold leak was fixed, but because of its small size, it was not thought to be the likely source for the hydrogen alarm trigger. While hydrogen was removed from the system for leak-testing, the hydrogen alarm went off again, and again the fire department responded. There was no hydrogen present in the system to trigger this alarm. Other sources within the building were checked to see what may have set off the alarm, but none were found. One research area uses small amounts of hydrogen, but laboratory logs indicate that none was being view more

During an external review of the facility safety basis document, it was identified that the accident analysis for the pool cell area hydrogen explosion did not account for release of stored hydrogen from the pool cell water as the temperature of the water increases. The analysis only accounted for the hydrogen generated by radiolysis. A loss of pool cell cooling occurring concurrently with a loss of ventilation would result in a higher concentration of hydrogen in the pool cell area than calculated in the safety basis. The safety basis document is being revised to account for the increase in hydrogen concentration.

First responders were dispatched to the waterfront area to investigate a possible explosion on an 85-foot dinner cruise boat that was moored there. Upon arrival, the incident commander noted that nothing out of the ordinary was visible on the exterior of the boat. A crew was sent to the interior of the boat to investigate. The boat was powered by diesel engines and there were no compressed gas cylinders on board.

After further investigation, it became apparent that the explosion had come from the battery compartment in the hull of the boat. The responders concluded that one of the batteries had been giving off hydrogen gas, which gradually built up inside the compartment. Since the compartment was not vented, the gas had nowhere to go. It found an ignition source (possibly a view more