On 10 June 2019, a hydrogen filling station in Norway caught fire. While several media talked about an explosion, the electrolyzer manufacturer involved, Nel, stated that leaked hydrogen gas caught fire in the open air, causing a shock wave. According to police reports, two people were slightly injured in this incident in Sandvika, west of Oslo, when the airbags of their cars deployed. After initial tests, it was said a few days later that hydrogen had escaped through a leak in the high-pressure storage system and had ignited. However, no tank had burst.
For safety reasons, several H2 stations in some countries were closed as a precaution to avoid further incidents of this type until the cause of the leakage and ignition could be identified. In addition, Toyota and Hyundai temporarily stopped the delivery of their fuel cell cars. However, Espen Olsen of Toyota Norway stated that the incident did not change “our attitude towards hydrogen, and it is important for us to stress that H2 cars are at least as safe as conventional vehicles”.
On 27 June, Nel reported that Gexcon AS, one of the world’s leading companies in safety management and explosion and fire modelling, had identified a fault in the assembly of a connector in a high-pressure hydrogen tank as the cause. As a result, hydrogen had escaped which had mixed with air and ignited. However, it is still unclear what the ignition source was, which is why further investigations are being carried out.
The hydrogen filling station is a Uno-X site (see photo), where the Nel ASA electrolysers, located directly next to the filling station, generates H2 gas with the aid of solar energy.