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Hydrogen Cloud Sets Off Alarm at Refinery

March 22, 2005 — At around 5 a.m. Tuesday morning residents on St. Croix, north of Hovensa, might have been awakened to the sound of an alarm.
The continuous alarm went off when recycled hydrogen was detected leaking into the area of a process unit on the west side of the refinery.
No one was injured in the incident, nor was there a fire, according to a press release today from Alex Moorhead, vice president Government Affairs, Community Relations.
He said the fire alarm was sounded to call the company Fire Brigade while the operations group isolated the leak. He said that, in accordance with the refinery’s emergency response procedure, after the vapor cloud alarm was activated, the flow of hydrogen into a transmission line in the area was stopped.
He said he could not recall this happening before at the refinery, but there was little danger because the Fire Brigade responded immediately. He pointed out that hydrogen is one of the lightest of gases, so it dissipated quickly.
According to the press release, recycled hydrogen contains a small amount of hydrogen sulfide, a flammable gas that is used in the chemical process to extract sulfur from petroleum products.
Moorhead explained that the vapor cloud alarm is a continuous sounding of horns to inform persons in the area of the leak to stop vehicular traffic and all other activity that could ignite the leak of hydrogen. He said that the vapor cloud alarm was silenced around 6 a.m., but the west side of the refinery remained under a vapor cloud alert while work continued to locate the source of the leak.
Moorhead said the refinery resumed normal operations around 7 a.m. after the source of the hydrogen leak was found.
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