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.

A power plant reported a hydrogen leak inside an auxiliary building. The given plant was in cold shutdown at the time of the event. The discovery of this problem was as a result of an unassociated event involving the activation of a chlorine monitor in the control building. When additional samples indicated no chlorine gas, the shift supervisor ordered further investigation into other plant areas. Because there was no installed detection equipment, portable survey instruments were used to determine gaseous mixtures. Hydrogen was detected in the auxiliary building at 20 to 30 percent of the lower flammability limit (LFL) for hydrogen. A level of about 30 percent of LFL corresponds to about 1.2 percent hydrogen by volume.

When hydrogen was discovered in the auxiliary building, the view more

An explosion occurred in an electrolysis system in a commercial facility. Electrolysis of a potassium hydroxide solution is used to produce hydrogen for a hydrogenation processes. The circular electrolysis cells are 1.5 m in diameter and 25 mm thick. Design current for the electrolyzer is 6,000 amps at 1.78 volts. Operating temperature and pressure is 70-90 °C and 435 psig. Hydrogen and oxygen product gases are separated from the electrolyte in separating drums. The system had been operating at the plant for 13 years prior to the explosion. Operating experiences had been generally favorable except for the need to periodically flush the system with water to remove sludge formations.

According to the investigative report, sludge deposits in the electrolyte passages started the view more

A hydrogen explosion occurred in an Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS) battery room. The explosion blew a 400 ft2 hole in the roof, collapsed numerous walls and ceilings throughout the building, and significantly damaged a large portion of the 50,000 ft2 building. Fortunately, the computer/data center was vacant at the time and there were no injuries.

The facility was formerly a large computer/data center with a battery room and emergency generators. The company vacated the building and moved out the computer equipment; however the battery back-up system was left behind. The ventilation for the battery room appeared to be tied into a hydrogen monitoring system. The hydrogen sensor was in alarm upon emergency responders arriving at the scene (post-explosion). 911 callers view more

An offgas system mishap involved two explosions occurring within an interval of about 3 ½ hours. The first offgas explosion was reportedly caused by a welding operation on an air line adjacent to a hydrogen sensor line containing off gas. The welding arc initiated a detonation within the offgas piping. The detonation was contained by the piping system but blew out the water seal at the base of the vent stack.The second hydrogen explosion in this incident occurred in the stack base area. Hydrogen accumulated in the enclosed base area after the water seal had been blown in the first explosion. The stack base metal door was blown off its hinges from the second explosion, and the reinforced concrete stack was also damaged. A plant employee walking by the stack at the time of the explosion view more

A water treatment plant used an electrolytic process to generate sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) from sodium chloride (NaCl). The strategy of using liquid sodium hypochlorite for disinfecting water instead of gaseous chlorine (CL2) is popular because the liquid is generally safer and falls under fewer OSHA and EPA standards. The further idea of generating the liquid sodium hypochlorite on an as-needed basis and in limited quantities also has certain obvious safety advantages.

One of the disadvantages of the electrolytic process is that hydrogen gas is also created as a byproduct. The hydrogen is supposed to be vented, by design, to the atmosphere before the liquid sodium hypochlorite passes into a holding tank.

For various reasons, in this instance it is believed that the view more

Difficulties were experienced with two solenoid-operated globe valves in a charging system. When shut, the valves could not be reopened without securing all charging pumps. During a refueling outage, the two valves were disassembled and examined to determine the cause of the malfunction. It was found that disc guide assembly springs in both valves had undergone complete catastrophic failure. The springs, which initially had 25 coils, were found in sections of only 1-2 coils. Metallurgical analysis of the failed springs attributed the probable cause of failure was due to hydrogen embrittlement. The springs are made of 17-7 PH stainless steel.

Discussion with the valve manufacturer revealed that similar failures occurred on three previous occasions. These spring failures were also view more

During an inspection, three potential safety problems were identified concerning the location of a hydrogen storage facility. The hydrogen storage facility is located on a building's roof, which is made of 30-inch-thick reinforced concrete. The following potential safety problems were identified during the inspection:

Leakage of hydrogen gas from the storage facility in proximity to the air intakes of the building's ventilation system may introduce a flammable or explosive gas mixture into the enclosure. Because the hydrogen storage facility, containing four 8,000-scf hydrogen tanks at up to 2,450 psig, is Seismic Category II, a seismic event may result in a hydrogen leak. Furthermore, the pressure relief valves in the hydrogen facility exhaust downward to within 6 view more

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 rupture occurred in a 24-inch gas line in a reformer. The pipe contained hydrogen and carbon monoxide at a pressure of about 400 psi and a temperature of 930 °C. The ruptured section of pipe had a high-temperature alloy steel outer wall, a refractory liner, and a stainless steel inner liner. The refractory lining had been repaired several times before (including three months prior to the incident) because of localized deterioration and hot spots. The repair procedure consisted of cutting a section of pipe, re-pouring the refractory liner, and patch-welding the outer wall.

The first rupture occurred when the 42-inch-long welded section of the pipe suddenly blew out. On-site employees heard a rumble and observed a flame above the ruptured pipe. Before the torch fire at the view more

An industrial heater used to heat a naphtha-hydrogen mixture developed a small leak in one of its finned tubes. The leak resulted in a 2-ft long torch flame, which was eventually noticed by an employee. Upon discovering the fire, the hydrotreater was shut down by cutting off the flow of naphtha and the flow of fuel to the burners in the heater. The hydrogen flow was maintained in order to cool and sweep the reactor during the shutdown operation.

The torch flame appeared to diminish significantly while only the hydrogen was flowing. However, molten metal dripping from the heater indicated that a much more severe fire was still in progress. The fire was eventually controlled by reducing the hydrogen flow and injecting steam into the heater. Inspection of the damaged heater view more