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.

Overview: A hydrogen leak and explosion occurred due to the installation of an incorrectly sized gasket at the suction line of a hydrogen compressor in a refinery hydrodesulfurization plant. The incorrectly sized gasket was mounted during the startup of the plant in 2001 and had never being inspected nor replaced.

Incident synopsis: The operating conditions were stable when the operator received an alarm indicating pressure loss in the circuit. He immediately instructed his field personnel to inspect the area. The hydrogen leak was confined inside the compressor room because the walls and roof were not provided with ventilation devices. An explosion occurred, causing two fatalities and the destruction of the compressor room and some of the surrounding area.

Spent platinum catalyst is recovered from corrugated stainless steel by chemical stripping and recovery. The process is completed by placing the material in lined tanks filled with hydrochloric acid (HCl). Approximately 500 pounds of corrugated stainless steel with platinum coating was inserted into a HCl leaching bath. Prior to starting the process, the supervisor tested the material for reactivity for a period of one hour, and the material showed very little reactivity. Operators began setting up three 500-gallon tanks, each containing the corrugated material. The material was covered with water and 4-5 inches of HCl was then added to the tank. When all three tanks were set up and there was only minimal reactivity observed (occasional bubbles), the operators left the area.

An view more

A fire occurred in a continuous-feed autoclave system (fixed-catalyst-bed tubular reactor) when the rupture disc released, discharging hot oil, oil distillates, and hydrogen gas out a vent pipe into the autoclave cell. The flammable mixture was discharged directly into the cell because there was no system in place to catch or remotely exhaust the autoclave contents. The oil and gas ignited in a fireball that, in turn, ignited nearby combustibles (cardboard and paper), causing a sustained fire. The hydrogen gas and autoclave system were shutoff immediately. However, a lecture bottle containing hydrogen sulfide was heated by the surrounding fire and ultimately ruptured with enough force to cause facility structural damage. (Lecture bottles do not have a pressure-relief device.) The view more

An explosion occurred in a 90-ton-per-day incinerator at a municipal refuse incineration facility. Three workers were seriously burned by high-temperature gas that spouted from the inspection door, and one of them died 10 days later. The accident happened during inspection and repair of the furnace ash chute damper. The workers injected water to remove some blockage, and the water reacted with incinerated aluminum ash to form hydrogen, which caused the explosion.

Workers noticed that the post-combustion zone was full of ash and the ash pusher was not working properly, so they tried to remove the ash from the inspection door with a shovel. They discovered a solid layer of "clinker", which is formed by solidification of molten material such as aluminum. The explosion view more

A hydrogen explosion and fire occurred in the benzene unit of a styrene plant in a large petrochemical complex. The unit was being restarted following a scheduled maintenance shutdown. The explosion followed the release of about 30 kilograms of 700-psig hydrogen gas from a burst flange into a compressor shed. Two men were killed and two others were injured. If it had not been a holiday, the death toll and injuries would probably have been much worse.

The operators were bringing the plant online and increasing the hydrogen circulation pressure. About 10-15 seconds before the explosion, they heard a pop and then a loud hiss of pressure being released within the compressor shed. Witnesses reported seeing a white flash and then a large fireball. The fires burned out in 2-3 minutes, view more

Unit 1 Plant power was stable at 90% following a plant startup. The Auxiliary Operator (AO) performed a pre-job brief with shift management before adding hydrogen to the main generator. While performing the addition, the AO attempted to verify open a half-inch hydrogen addition valve. The AO was unable to move the valve by hand and mistakenly assumed the valve was stuck on its closed seat. The valve is a normally open valve and the procedure step was to verify the valve was, in fact, open. The AO obtained a pipe wrench to assist in freeing the valve off of its "closed" seat. Using the pipe wrench, the valve handwheel was turned in the open direction. The AO attempted to open the valve by hand again. Unable to move the valve by hand, the pipe wrench was used to further open view more

A researcher was using numerous compressed gases in his lab. To facilitate reconfiguring his experimental apparatus, he installed "quick-disconnect" fittings on flexible tubing connected to his compressed gas cylinders/regulators. He also fitted all of the equipment that needed gas with complementary "quick-disconnect" fittings.

The day of the incident, he needed to purge his IR spectrometer with nitrogen as the element heated up. He mistakenly attached the "quick-disconnect" fitting from a cylinder of 10% nitrogen and 90% hydrogen to the "quick-disconnect" fitting on his spectrometer. As soon as the gas started flowing and he switched on the element, the instrument exploded, completely destroying a $6,000 piece of equipment. Only minor view more

A researcher was unplugging an electrical cord when 1/8-inch copper tubing supplying nitrogen to a gas chromatograph came in contact with the energized electrical plug, causing an electrical arc. This caused a hole in the copper tubing. A nearby hydrogen line was unaffected.

The bottled gas supply was shut off. Craftsmen were brought in to reinstall the copper tubing, at a safe distance from the electrical outlet.

An over-pressurization of two 55-gallon drums of waste phosphoric acid resulted in a material failure of the drum bottoms, releasing the contents of both drums (about 100 gallons) onto the facility floor. The spillage was collected within the sumps that are part of the facility's spill control system. The waste material had been packaged into DOT-specified containers earlier that day and the drums were placed into an assigned storage cell. That evening a staff member heard a noise in the high bay where hazardous wastes are stored. Upon investigating, he discovered the breached drums and spilled material.

The only material released to the environment was hydrogen gas. The maximum concentration of hydrogen released into the facility was 0.035%, well below the lower view more

Only 25 minutes after the normal work shift ended, an explosion occurred at a hydrogen storage and use facility that had been in a non-operational mode for several months while undergoing modifications for future tests. No one was in the facility at the time of the explosion. The event was viewed about 30 seconds after the explosion by two engineers in a blockhouse 1000 feet away. Authorities were notified and calls were placed to other personnel needed to secure the area. About 8 minutes later, the engineers moved to a vantage point about 450 feet from the facility. There they viewed heat waves rising from a central location on the test pad, heard popping sounds similar to gaseous hydrogen (GH2) venting on a burn pond, and suspected that a hydrogen fire was in process. They returned view more