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Hydrogen Gas Explosion and Fire at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. in Santa Clara

On Saturday, June 1 Santa Clara Fire Department extinguished a fire at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. in Santa Clara.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. firefighters from the Santa Clara Fire Department responded to reports of an explosion and fire at a chemical, gas storage and transportation facility near the 1500 block of Norman Avenue.

When crews arrived on scene at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., they located multiple hydrogen tanker trucks on fire in the facility yard. Once firefighters confirmed no one was injured and the area had been evacuated, they switched to defensive operations with multiple ladder trucks flowing water from aerial master streams. Businesses in a two-block radius were evacuated or advised to shelter in place for approximately two hours.

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The fire was reported extinguished as of 5:40 p.m. Additional air sampling and thermal imaging was conducted to ensure air quality, and that the hydrogen, which is not visible when burning in the daytime, did not pose a threat.

Early interviews with Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. employees indicated that “a hydrogen tanker truck was being fueled and a leak occurred,” according to Drew Miller, Battalion Chief for Santa Clara Fire Department, in a press conference Saturday evening.

“When the shutdown of the tanker truck that was being fueled occurred, an explosion resulted,” said Miller.

According to Miller, the explosion damaged the emergency shutoff panel and valve near the tanker. Workers were able to shut off two valves but couldn’t shut off the valve near the original tanker truck. The tanker caught on fire, which spread to other tankers nearby. Only some tankers in the fueling area were affected and the fire didn’t spread beyond that area.

Miller said they were still interviewing employees.

Throughout the evening and into Sunday, June 2, firefighters continued to help preserve property, environmental protection and salvage and overhaul operations.

No civilians or firefighters reported injuries at the incident. The exact cause of the explosion and subsequent fire is under investigation.

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3 Comments
  1. john nall 4 months ago
    Reply

    They should question Mr. Jeremy Rifkin of the Foundation on Economic trends about this.Rifkin’s traveling all over the world,
    promoting hydrogen storage,saying that it’s essential to pillar 3 of his Third Industrial Revolution.When asked about how safe it is,
    Rifkin keeps telling them that it’s perfectly safe to store hydrogen.I would love to hear Rifkin’s comments on this.Rifkin’s all
    worried about Biotechnology being safe and he’s not even questioning the safety of the technology HE’S promoting.

  2. Vladimir Nabokov 4 months ago
    Reply

    This incident was not the result of unsafe hydrogen per se, but was the result of unsafe handling of equipment and deviation from standard loading procedures. Persons who were untrained to act in the capacity of a mechanic took apart crucial equipment which directly caused a hydrogen leak. The OSHA report is available for public viewing. When standard practices are adhered to in full, with no deviation, these incidents are completely preventable. This incident was preventable. This is a prime example of why one should never make assumptions about equipment, or perform work when they are not formally qualified to do so. There is a certain type of esoteric knowledge that comes with handling this equipment, and employees must not only know their job functions intimately, but they must also know what is explicitly outside of their qualifications. Clear boundaries should always be established. Often employees assume that the more they do, the more qualified they are. This is a prime example of why employees need to know their role. At Chevron, there is a policy called Stop Work Authority. This policy guarantees an employee’s obligation to stop working at the first inception of perceived danger. By constantly repeating this policy, Chevron has very few incidents and are an industry leader in safety. The Stop Work Authority not only assures an employee’s right to stop work when they sense danger; it also clearly defines an employee’s role. Most importantly, and perhaps as an implicit point — it sends a clear message that employees should never engage in work outside of their formal qualifications.

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    Reply

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