Hydrogen Explosion at a Water Treatment Facility

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

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.

Incorrect Relief Valve Set Point Leads to Explosion

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Incident Synopsis
During a standard testing procedure, a 3,000 psig relief valve actuated at normal line pressure, releasing gaseous H2. The gaseous H2 combined with air, resulting in an explosion which damaged the test facility.

Cause
The relief valve was improperly set to open at line pressure, and the inspection was inadequate in that it didn't identify this error. Contributing cause was poor design of the venting system, which was installed in a horizontal position, causing inadequate venting and buildup of static electricity.

Gas Chromatograph Piping Leak Explodes in Instrument Room

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

An explosion occurred at a chemical plant in an analysis room containing various analyzer instruments, including a gas chromatograph supplied with hydrogen. A contract operator was performing work to install a new vent line to a benzene analyzer that was part of a group of CO2 analyzers, but separate and unrelated to the gas chromatograph. During the process of this work, a plant supervisor accompanying the contract operator doing the work had an indication of flammable gas present on a portable detector.

Hydrogen Vent Blow Down

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Hydrogen was released near the ground when the vent line from a 13,000-gallon liquid hydrogen storage vessel suffered damage from unusually high winds. The toppled vent line did not shear or tear, but sustained a kink that restricted hydrogen flow and created a back pressure on the vessel relief system.

Repair efforts were hampered by the potential for cold hydrogen gas, a flammability hazard, in the work area. Shut off or redirection of the hydrogen was not possible, and variable breezes made set up of safe zones uncertain. A protocol had not been prepared for this scenario.

Liquid Hydrogen Tank Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE) due to Water-Plugged Vent Stack

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A rupture disc blew on a 20,000-gallon liquid hydrogen tank, causing the vent stack to exhaust cold gaseous hydrogen. Emergency responders were called to the scene. To stabilize the tank, the remaining hydrogen was removed from the tank except for a small volume in the heel of the tank that could not be removed manually. The tank vacuum was lost. Firemen sprayed the tank with water and directed a stream onto the fire exiting the vent stack.

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