Hydrogen safety

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Hydrogen explosion)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hydrogen safety covers the safe production, handling and use of hydrogen – particularly hydrogen gas fuel and liquid hydrogen. The main concern in working with hydrogen is flammability.

Hydrogen possesses the NFPA 704's highest rating of 4 on the flammability scale because it is flammable when mixed even in small amounts with ordinary air; ignition can occur at a volumetric ratio of hydrogen to air as low as 4% due to the oxygen in the air and the simplicity and chemical properties of the reaction. However, hydrogen has no rating for innate hazard for reactivity or toxicity. The storage and use of hydrogen poses unique challenges due to its ease of leaking as a gaseous fuel, low-energy ignition, wide range of combustible fuel-air mixtures, buoyancy, and its ability to embrittle metals that must be accounted for to ensure safe operation. Liquid hydrogen poses additional challenges due to its increased density and the extremely low temperatures needed to keep it in liquid form.

NFPA 704
fire diamond
The fire diamond hazard sign for both elemental hydrogen gas and its isotope deuterium.[1][2]


  • For over 40 years, industry has used hydrogen in vast quantities as an industrial chemical and fuel for space exploration. During that time, industry has developed an infrastructure to produce, store, transport and utilize hydrogen safely.
  • Hydrogen gas is a high-powered fuel that burns quickly and is used mostly for applications that require rapid delivery of power – such as rocketry and spaceflight. For instance, it was used to power the Space Shuttle.
  • Liquid hydrogen is sometimes used as an extremely condensed hydrogen fuel.
  • Gaseous hydrogen can be used as a coolant for electric generators in power stations. This is because of its high thermal conductivity and low "windage", so reducing frictional and turbulence losses.
  • Hydrogen is also used as a feedstock in industrial processes including production of ammonia and methanol.

Hydrogen codes and standards[edit]

Hydrogen codes and standards are codes and standards (RCS) for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, stationary fuel cell applications and portable fuel cell applications.

Additional to the codes and standards for hydrogen technology products, there are codes and standards for hydrogen safety, for the safe handling of hydrogen[3] and the storage of hydrogen.


The current ANSI/AIAA standard for hydrogen safety guidelines is AIAA G-095-2004, Guide to Safety of Hydrogen and Hydrogen Systems.[4] As NASA has been one of the world's largest users of hydrogen, this evolved from NASA's earlier guidelines, NSS 1740.16 (8719.16).[5] These documents cover both the risks posed by hydrogen in its different forms and how to ameliorate them.


  • "Hydrogen-air mixtures can ignite with very low energy input, 1/10 that required igniting a gasoline-air mixture. For reference, an invisible spark or a static spark from a person can cause ignition."
  • "Although the autoignition temperature of hydrogen is higher than those for most hydrocarbons, hydrogen's lower ignition energy makes the ignition of hydrogen–air mixtures more likely. The minimum energy for spark ignition at atmospheric pressure is about 0.02 millijoules."


  • "The flammability limits based on the volume percent of hydrogen in air at 14.7 psia (1 atm, 101 kPa) are 4.0 and 75.0. The flammability limits based on the volume percent of hydrogen in oxygen at 14.7 psia (1 atm, 101 kPa) are 4.0 and 94.0."
  • "The limits of detonability of hydrogen in air are 18.3 to 59 percent by volume"[6][7]
  • "Flames in and around a collection of pipes or structures can create turbulence that causes a deflagration to evolve into a detonation, even in the absence of gross confinement."

(For comparison: Deflagration limit of gasoline in air: 1.4–7.6%; of acetylene in air,[8] 2.5% to 82%)


  • Hydrogen is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so most human senses won't help to detect a leak. By comparison, natural gas is also odorless, colorless and tasteless, but industry adds a sulfur-containing odorant called a mercaptan to make it detectable by people. Currently, all known odorants contaminate fuel cells (a popular application for hydrogen). However, given hydrogen's tendency to rise quickly, a hydrogen leak indoors would briefly collect on the ceiling and eventually move towards the corners and away from places where people might be exposed to it. For that and other reasons, industry often uses hydrogen sensors to help detect hydrogen leaks and has maintained a high safety record using them for decades. Researchers are investigating other methods that might be used for hydrogen detection: tracers, new odorant technology, advanced sensors and others.[9]
  • Hydrogen leaks can support combustion at very low flow rates, as low as 4 micrograms/s.[10]

Liquid hydrogen[edit]

  • "Condensed and solidified atmospheric air, or trace air accumulated in manufacturing, contaminates liquid hydrogen, thereby forming an unstable mixture. This mixture may detonate with effects similar to those produced by trinitrotoluene (TNT) and other highly explosive materials"

Liquid hydrogen requires complex storage technology such as the special thermally insulated containers and requires special handling common to all cryogenic substances. This is similar to, but more severe than liquid oxygen. Even with thermally insulated containers it is difficult to keep such a low temperature, and the hydrogen will gradually leak away. (Typically it will evaporate at a rate of 1% per day.[11])


Hydrogen collects under roofs and overhangs, where it forms an explosion hazard; any building that contains a potential source of hydrogen should have good ventilation, strong ignition suppression systems for all electric devices, and preferably be designed to have a roof that can be safely blown away from the rest of the structure in an explosion. It also enters pipes and can follow them to their destinations. Hydrogen pipes should be located above other pipes to prevent this occurrence. Hydrogen sensors allow for rapid detection of hydrogen leaks to ensure that the hydrogen can be vented and the source of the leak tracked down. As in natural gas, an odorant can be added to hydrogen sources to enable leaks to be detected by smell. While hydrogen flames can be hard to see with the naked eye, they show up readily on UV/IR flame detectors. More recently Multi IR detectors have been developed, which have even faster detection on hydrogen-flames.12 Chemo-chromic indicators can be added to silicone tapes for hydrogen detection purposes. DetecTape H2 – Low Cost Visual Hydrogen Leak Detector


Hydrogen is extremely flammable.[12] However this is mitigated by the fact that hydrogen rapidly rises and often disperses before ignition, unless the escape is in an enclosed, unventilated area. Demonstrations have shown that a fuel fire in a hydrogen-powered vehicle can burn out completely with little damage to the vehicle, in contrast to the expected result in a gasoline-fueled vehicle.[13]

Ahlhorn disaster. On the 5th of January 1918, a fire detonated a hydrogen zeppelin inside a hangar in Germany. The resulting blast was felt 40 km away, and destroyed several neighbouring hangars and zeppelins within.[citation needed]

Hindenburg disaster. May 6, 1937. As the zeppelin Hindenburg was approaching landing at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, a fire detonated one of the aft hydrogen cells, thereby rupturing neighbouring cells and causing the airship to fall to the ground aft-first. The inferno then travelled towards the stern, bursting and igniting the remaining cells. Despite 4 news stations recording the disaster on film and surviving eyewitness testimonies from crew and people on the ground, the cause of the initial fire was never conclusively determined.[citation needed]

In January 2007, an explosion of compressed hydrogen during delivery at the Muskingum River Coal Plant (owned and operated by AEP) caused significant damage and killed one person.[14][15] For more information on incidents involving hydrogen, visit the US DOE's Hydrogen Incident Reporting and Lessons Learned page.[16]

During the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, three reactor buildings were damaged by hydrogen explosions. Exposed Zircaloy cladded fuel rods became very hot and reacted with steam, releasing hydrogen.[17][18] The containments were filled with inert nitrogen, which prevented hydrogen from burning in the containment. However, the hydrogen leaked from the containment into the reactor building, where it mixed with air and exploded.[19] To prevent further explosions, vent holes were opened in the top of the remaining reactor buildings.

In 2015, an explosion occurred at the Formosa Plastics Group refinery in Taiwan due to hydrogen leaking from a pipe.[20] No further details available.

In February 2018, on the way to an FCV hydrogen station, a truck carrying about 24 compressed hydrogen tanks caught fire. This caused the evacuation initially of a one-mile radius area of Diamond Bar, a suburb of Los Angeles, CA. The fire broke out on the truck at about 1:20 p.m. at the intersection of South Brea Canyon Road and Golden Springs Drive, according to a Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatcher.[21][22][23][24] The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation.[25]

In August 2018 a delivery truck carrying liquid hydrogen caught fire at Veridam [26] in El Cajon CA.[27]

In May 2019, leaking hydrogen led to an explosion at AB Specialty Silicones in Waukegan, Illinois, which killed four workers and seriously injured a fifth.[28][29]

Also in May 2019, a hydrogen tank exploded killing 2 and injuring 6 in Gangneung, South Korea at the Gangwon Technopark.[30][31]

In June 2019, an incident occurred at the Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. facility in Santa Clara, California. The hydrogen transfill facility had an explosion during the loading of a tanker truck that was being fueled.[32] This resulted in the temporary shutdown of multiple hydrogen fueling stations in the San Francisco area.[33]

In June 2019 Uno-X fueling station in Norway experienced an explosion,[34] resulting in the shutdown of all Uno-X hydrogen fueling stations and a temporary halt in sales of fuel cell vehicles in Norway.[35] Based on preliminary investigation findings neither the electrolyzer or the dispenser used by customers had anything to do with this incident. Therefore, the electrolyzer division will now return to business as usual.[36][37] June 27, 2019 Nel ASA announces the root cause of the incident has been identified as an assembly error of a specific plug in a hydrogen tank in the high-pressure storage unit.[38]

In December 2019, a gas explosion at an Airgas facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin injured one worker and caused 2 hydrogen storage tanks to leak.[39][40][41]

On 7 April 2020, an explosion occurred at the OneH2 Hydrogen Fuel plant in Long View, North Carolina, causing significant damage to surrounding buildings. The blast was felt several miles away, damaging about 60 homes. No injuries from the explosion were reported. The incident remains under investigation.[42][43][44][45] The company published a press release: Hydrogen Safety Systems Operated Effectively, Prevented Injury at Plant Explosion.[46]

On 11 June 2020, an explosion occurred at the Praxair Inc., 703 6th St. Texas City, Texas, a hydrogen production plant.[47][48]

On 30 September 2020, a hydrogen tanker crashed and exploded in Changhua City, Taiwan, killing the driver. [49]

On 9 August 2021, the Medupi Power Station in South Africa was severely damaged after an explosion in Unit 4 caused by an improper procedure while the generator was being purged of hydrogen.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "HYDROGEN | CAMEO Chemicals | NOAA". cameochemicals.noaa.gov. Retrieved Nov 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "DEUTERIUM | CAMEO Chemicals | NOAA". cameochemicals.noaa.gov. Retrieved Nov 29, 2020.
  3. ^ HySafe Initial Guidance for Using Hydrogen in Confined Spaces. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  4. ^ "AIAA G-095-2004, Guide to Safety of Hydrogen and Hydrogen Systems" (PDF). AIAA. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  5. ^ Gregory, Frederick D. (February 12, 1997). "Safety Standard for Hydrogen and Hydrogen Systems" (PDF). NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 27, 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  6. ^ Lewis, Bernard; Guenther, von Elbe (1961). Combustion, Flames and Explosions of Gases (2nd ed.). New York: Academic Press, Inc. p. 535. ISBN 978-0124467507.
  7. ^ Kalyanaraman, M (4 September 2019). "'Only a question of time' until large hydrogen systems are stable". Riviera Maritime Media.
  8. ^ MSHA – Safety Hazard Information – Special Hazards of Acetylene Archived 2016-01-22 at the Wayback Machine. Msha.gov. Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  9. ^ http://www.arhab.org/pdfs/h2_safety_fsheet.pdf
  10. ^ M.S. Butler, C.W. Moran, Peter B. Sunderland, R.L. Axelbaum, Limits for Hydrogen Leaks that Can Support Stable Flames, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 34 (2009) 5174–5182.
  11. ^ Peter Kushnir. Hydrogen As an Alternative Fuel Archived 2008-08-08 at the Wayback Machine. PB 700-00-3. Vol. 32, Issue 3, May–June 2000. almc.army.mil.
  12. ^ Utgikar, Vivek P; Thiesen, Todd (2005). "Safety of compressed hydrogen fuel tanks: Leakage from stationary vehicles". technology in Society. 27 (3): 315–320. doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2005.04.005.
  13. ^ "Hydrogen Car Safety Test- Fuel Leak H2 vs. Petrol". Vimeo. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  14. ^ Williams, Mark (January 8, 2007). "Ohio Power Plant Blast Kills 1, Hurts 9". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  15. ^ "Muskingum River Plant Hydrogen Explosion January 8, 2007" (PDF). American Electric Power. November 11, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  16. ^ "Hydrogen Incident Reporting and Lessons Learned". h2incidents.org.
  17. ^ Nuclear Fuel Behaviour in Loss-of-coolant Accident (LOCA) Conditions (PDF). Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD. 2009. p. 140. ISBN 978-92-64-99091-3.
  18. ^ Hydrogen explosions Fukushima nuclear plant: what happened? Archived 2013-12-02 at the Wayback Machine. Hyer.eu. Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  19. ^ "The Fukushima Daiichi Accident. Report by the Director General" (PDF). International Atomic Energy Agency. 2015. p. 54. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  20. ^ Charlier, Phillip (2019-04-07). "Chemical plant explosion rocks southern Taiwan, heard more than 30 kilometers away". Taiwan English News (in American English). Retrieved 2020-11-26.
  21. ^ "Truck Carrying Hydrogen Tanks Catches Fire, Forces Evacs". NBC Southern California. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  22. ^ "Diamond Bar Evacs Lifted After Hydrogen Fire". NBC Southern California. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  23. ^ 323/310 Hood News (2018-02-12), DIAMOND BAR TRUCK EXPLOSION, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2019-06-18
  24. ^ CBS Los Angeles (2018-02-11), Tractor Trailer Fire Evacuations In Diamond Bar, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2019-06-18
  25. ^ "Hydrogen truck explodes on way to FCV refueling site [Video]". LeftLaneNews. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  26. ^ "Veridiam, Inc". Strategic Manufacturing Partner > Veridiam. Retrieved Nov 29, 2020.
  27. ^ "Truck carrying liquid hydrogen catches fire". KGTV. 2018-08-29. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  28. ^ "Hydrogen blast led to deaths at US silicones plant". Chemical & Engineering News. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  29. ^ Abderholden, Frank S. "Waukegan plant explosion that killed four workers was preventable, federal officials say". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  30. ^ Herald, The Korea (2019-05-23). "Hydrogen tank explosion kills 2 in Gangneung". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  31. ^ "Tank explosion poses setback for Seoul's push for hydrogen economy – Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea". pulsenews.co.kr (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  32. ^ "Hydrogen explosion shakes Santa Clara neighborhood". ABC7 San Francisco. 2019-06-02. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  33. ^ Woodrow, Melanie. "Bay Area experiences hydrogen shortage after explosion", ABC news, June 3, 2019
  34. ^ Huang, Echo. "A hydrogen fueling station explosion in Norway has left fuel-cell cars nowhere to charge". Quartz. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  35. ^ Dobson, Geoff (12 June 2019). "Exploding hydrogen station leads to FCV halt". EV Talk.
  36. ^ Sampson2019-06-13T12:02:00+01:00, Joanna. "Preliminary findings from H2 station investigation". gasworld. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  37. ^ "Moon's 'hydrogen diplomacy' tarnished by charging station explosion". koreatimes. 2019-06-13. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  38. ^ "Nel ASA: Status update #5 regarding incident at Kjørbo". News Powered by Cision. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  39. ^ Riccioli, Jim. "'A massive boom': Explosion at Waukesha gas company reverberated through the city and left one injured". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  40. ^ "VIDEO: 1 injured after explosion at Waukesha gas company". ABC7 Chicago. 2019-12-13. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  41. ^ "Gas explosion injures 1 worker in Waukesha". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  42. ^ "Explosion at hydrogen fuel plant in US damages around 60 buildings". www.hazardexonthenet.net. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  43. ^ Burgess2020-04-08T11:51:00+01:00, Molly. "60 homes damaged after hydrogen plant explosion". gasworld. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  44. ^ Burgess2020-04-14T08:20:00+01:00, Molly. "OneH2: Hydrogen plant explosion update". gasworld. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  45. ^ Koebler, Jason (2020-04-07). "One of the Country's Only Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plants Suffers Huge Explosion". Vice. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  47. ^ "Praxair Texas City Hydrogen Plant Explosion". "Zehl & Associates". 2020-06-12. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  48. ^ Lacombe, James (2020-06-11). "Small industrial explosion rattles Texas City". Galveston County-The Daily News. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  49. ^ Charlier, Phillip (2020-09-30). "Hydrogen tanker crashes and explodes on freeway in Changhua City". Taiwan English News (in American English). Retrieved 2020-11-26.
  50. ^ Parkinson, Giles (2021-08-11). "World's newest and most expensive coal plant explodes after hydrogen leak". RenewEconomy (in Australian English). Retrieved 2021-10-11.

[1] (PDF) Retrieved 2014-08-09

External links[edit]