Hydrogen Station Explosion – Aftermath

The hydrogen station at Kjørbo is centrally located in Sandvika outside of Oslo, by two of the busiest roads in Norway with 80 000 cars passing daily. It is in Bærum municipality, and Akershus county. It exploded on Monday 2019-06-10. Since then, a number of interesting – some might say alarming – facts have emerged.

The station was a joint venture between X-Uno, Nel and Nippon Gases (formerly Praxair), announced on 2016-04-01. It uses Nel technology for on-site hydrogen production from electrolysis. The station is co-located with Powerhouse Kjørbo, an energy-positive office building, that uses solar panels that can supply upward of 200 000 kWh each year, twice the amount of the building’s annual energy consumption. Some of this excess energy was to be used to produce hydrogen.

The project had a total budget of NOK 28.4 million, of which NOK 5.7 million was support from the Akershus County Council and NOK 7.7 million was from the Norwegian public enterprise, Enova, responsible for the promotion of environmentally friendly production and consumption of energy. Other project partners included consulting firm Asplan Viak and Bærum Municipality.

Nel is an electrolysis technology company that has expanded into the hydrogen market. Its roots going back to technology developed by
Norsk Hydro in 1927. It is the world’s largest electrolyzer manufacturer with more than 3500 units delivered in over 80 countries. It is also a world leading manufacturer of hydrogen fuelling stations; approximately 50 stations delivered to 9 countries.

Safety Assessment

Bærum municipality has clearly stated that they did not have the competence to say whether the station was safe or not. They pointed out that the operator Uno-X sent its risk analysis to the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB), relying on the authority to intervene if they saw the station as a security risk.

But DSB did not assess the analysis. Neither do they need to do so with anyone who stores or produces hydrogen in Norway. It emerges from DSB’s overview of hydrogen facilities in Norway, that the limit for having to get approval from the professional authority is actually set so high that it does not apply to anyone.

A total of 5 tonnes of hydrogen can be stored before it is subject to major accident regulations. Then another regulation on the storage of hazardous chemicals enters, which requires consent from DSB. That said, 100 grams of hydrogen can cause a serious situation if it is handled incorrectly, and less than one kilogram can lead to a fatal accident.

The 5 tonne limit is taken directly from Seveso, the relevant EU directive, which has been placed in the Norwegian major accident regulations. DSB is nevertheless free to demand that organizations obtain approval even if they are below the limit. However, DSB must argue that the risk dictates it, and then make a decision. It was not done at the hydrogen filling station in Sandvika. DSB is now also asking whether the limit of 5 tonnes of hydrogen is reasonable.

The amount of hydrogen stored when it exploded in the Uno-X station in Sandvika is uncertain, but in the safety analysis, the company estimates that they would store up to 100 kilograms during the first 1-2 years.

Leakage without Alarm

Perhaps the most disturbing fact emerging is that there was a hydrogen leak for an estimated 2.5 hours, that did not set off any alarms before the station exploded.

Nel installed the technology at the station and has admitted their responsibility for the explosion.

They are now reacting to the accident with a four point action plan. First, with a verified plug solution, they intend to inspect all high pressure storage units in Europe, and to check and re-torque all plugs. This should prevent the same circumstances arising in the future.

Second, they are updating their routines for assembly of high pressure storage units. This includes the introduction of a new safety system, and routines that follow an aerospace standard. This includes torque verification, double witness and documentation/marking.

Third, there is a need for improved leak detection, since it is estimated that hydrogen leaked from the tank for 2.5 hours, without this being detected. Thus, no alarm sounded before the tank exploded. Initially, this will involve a software update to increase leak detection frequency. However, they will also consider additional detection hardware and/ or modifications to the existing equipment.

Fourth, ignition control measures will have to be implemented. These are site dependent. A smooth surface, without gravel, should surround any high pressure storage unit. Additional ventilation may also be required, along with greater use of EX-equipment. That is, electrical equipment specifically designed for hazardous locations. This type of equipment should be specially designed and tested to ensure it does not initiate an explosion, including – but not restricted to – those due to arcing contacts or high surface temperature of equipment.

Incorrect Assembly of Equipment

The safety consulting company Gexcon, along with SINTEF and Bureau Veritas, is responsible for investigating the accident. They have found that a plug in one of the hydrogen tanks was mounted incorrectly and that this is why hydrogen leaked into the air and formed a cloud that eventually exploded.

On Friday, 2019-06-28, Nel, the company manufacturing the hydrogen distribution equipment, and who has taken responsibility for the explosion, explained how the incorrect assembly took place. Their presentation – which appears to be part public relations information about the company and part explanation for the incident – is here.

  1. Materials OK
    1. Magnetic particle inspection
    2. Penetrant testing
    3. Verification of materials
  2. Design OK
    1. 1 000 000 cycle accelerated test
  3. Assembly NOT OK
    1. Bolt analysis
    2. Physical gap
    3. Opening torque
  1. Starting condition.
    1. Green bolts torqued properly
    2. Blue bolts not torqued properly
  2. Red sealing fails.
    1. Starting with small leak on red sealing area
    2. Small leak wears red sealing out and escalates
    3. Large leak exceeding capacity of leak bore, causing pressure increases inside blue sealing area
  3. Bushing with Plug lifts and the blue seal fails.
    1. Insufficient pretension of bolts leads to lift of the plug and blue sealings fail immediately
    2. Spread of Hydrogen leaks out in uncontrolled way

There are two main candidates for ignition that are probably impossible to distinguish between. These are: 1. Self-ignition by static electricity mixed with optimum amount of oxygen and hydrogen led to ignition. 2. Gravel on the substrate at the tank, which lay at the very bottom in one corner. Wind acting on the gravel may have caused friction which led to ignition.

An additional report is expected to be released at the end of august 2019.

V2: The content was updated 2019-06-30 at 17:30.

Cut/Copy and Paste

The most influential computer ever made, original Xerox Alto featuring bit-mapped black and white display sized 606×808 (the same dimensions as a regular 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper, aligned vertically; 5.8 MHz CPU; 128kB of memory (at the cost of $4000); 2.5MB removable cartridge hard drive; three button mouse; 64-key keyboard and a 5-finger key set. It was on such a machine that Bravo and Gypsy were developed, and cut/copy and paste invented. (Photo: Xerox PARC)

Larry Tesler (1945 – ), invented cut/copy and paste. Between 1973 and 1976, Tesler worked at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), in Palo Alto, California, on the programming language Smalltalk-76, and especially the Gypsy text editor, referred to then as a document preparation system. It was on this project, he implemented a method of capturing text and inserting it elsewhere.

Xerox PARC was initiated by Xerox Chief Scientist Jacob E. “Jack” Goldman (1921 – 2011) who previously worked at Carnegie Tech and directed the Ford Scientific Laboratory, who hired a physicist, George Pake (1924 – 2004) to create it in 1970.

Xerox PARC was largely responsible for developing laser printing, the Ethernet, the modern personal computer, the graphical user interface (GUI) and desktop paradigm, object-oriented programming, ubiquitous computing, electronic paper, amorphous silicon (a-Si) applications, and advancing very-large-scale integration (VLSI) for semiconductors.

For a more complete story, see: Larry Tesler, A Personal History of Modeless Text Editing and Cut/Copy-Paste (2012)

While most people focus on the cut/copy-paste tool, the concept of modeless software had even greater impact. A mode is a distinct setting within a computer program, in which the same user input will produce different results, because of other settings. Caps lock when pressed puts the user’s typing into a different mode, CAPITAL LETTERS. If it is pressed a second time, the original made will be reactivated, resulting in lower-case letters.

Most interface modes are discouraged because of their potential to induce errors especially when the user is expected to remember the mode state the interface is in. The situation is somewhat better if there is an on-screen state/ mode indicator, such as a change in the colour of an icon, when a mode change is made.

If the user is unaware of an interface mode, there may be an unexpected and undesired response. Mode errors can be disorienting as the user copes with a transgression of user expectations. Not all mode changes are initiated by users,

Mode changes can be initiated by the system, by previous users or by the same user who has disremembered the state change. In such a situation, an operation with the old mode in mind, will disrupt user focus as the user becomes aware of the mode change. This is especially important when a user cannot find how to restore the previous mode.

Prior to Gypsy, Butler Lampson (1943 – ), Charles Simonyi (1948 – ) and others developed Bravo at Xerox PARC in 1974. It was a modal editor where characters typed on the keyboard were usually commands to Bravo, except when in “insert” or “append” mode. Bravo used a mouse to mark text locations and to select text, but not for commands.

Although similar in capabilities to Bravo, the user interface of Gypsy was radically different. In both, a command operated on the current selection. But Bravo had modes and Gypsy didn’t. In Bravo, the effect of pressing a character key depended on the current mode, while in Gypsy, pressing a character key by itself always typed the character.

In the Wikipedia article on Gypsy, the difference between Bravo and Gypsy is illustrated by three examples:

  1. Insert In Bravo’s Command Mode, pressing “I” entered Insert Mode. In that mode, pressing character keys typed characters into a holding area (“buffer”) until the Escape key was pressed, at which time the buffer contents were inserted before the selection and the editor returned to Command Mode.
    In Gypsy, no command or buffer was needed to insert new text. The user simply selected an insertion point with the mouse and typed the new text. Each inserted character went directly into the document at the insertion point, which was automatically repositioned after the new character.
  2. Replace In Bravo, to replace existing text by new text, the user pressed “R” to enter Replace Mode. That mode was just like Insert Mode except that the buffer contents replaced the selection instead of inserting text before it.
    In Gypsy, to replace text, the user simply selected the old text and typed the new text. As soon as the user began to type, Gypsy deleted the old text and selected an insertion point in its stead.
  3. Copy In the then-current version of Bravo, the user selected the destination, pressed “I” or “R” to enter Insert or Replace Mode, selected the source (which highlighted differently from the destination), and pressed Escape to perform the copy and return to Command Mode. While in Insert or Replace Mode, the user could scroll and could select a source, but could not invoke another command, such as opening a different document. To copy text between documents was more complex.
    In Gypsy, the user could select the source text, press the “Copy” function key, select the destination text or insertion point, and press the “Paste” function key. Between Copy and Paste, the system was, as usual, not in a mode. The user could invoke other commands, such as opening a different document.

Fewer modes meant less user confusion about what mode the system was in and therefore what effect a particular key press would have. Gypsy and Bravo both used a three-button mouse, where the second and third buttons were intended for experts.

New users could learn to work with Gypsy in only a few hours. Drag-through selection, double-click and cut-copy-paste were quickly adopted elsewhere, and have become standard on most text editors.

This text was originally written in June 2009 as a draft for a weblog post. It was removed from the weblog, but subsequently revived without the original date and time stamps. New text was added at irregular intervals, including 13 May 2016, 23 April 2018, and 06 May 2019. The publication date of this weblog post celebrates the 10th anniversary of this weblog.

Hydrogen Station Explosion

2019-06-10, the Uno-X hydrogen station at Sandvika, near Oslo, Norway, was destroyed in an explosion. The explosion led to the activation of airbags in two nearby cars. (Photo: NRK)

An explosion, most likely in a single hydrogen tank, occurred at the Uno-X hydrogen station at Sandvika, near Oslo, on 2019-06-10. When writing this post, the cause of the explosion was not known.

While no one appears to have been directly injured in the explosion, two people driving in the vicinity were injured when their airbags activated because of air pressure from the explosion.

The explosion resulted in the closing, in both directions, of two major highways. European Highway 16 (E16) is the major east-west connection between Bergen and the Swedish border. The E18 connects southern Norway with Oslo.

For those interested in robotics, a LUF 60 wireless remote controlled mobile firefighting support machine, was actively used to suppress the fire that followed after the explosion. More importantly, it was used to cool other unexploded hydrogen tanks, to prevent them from exploding. In addition, a platform lift with water canon assisted with this task. These two vehicles allowed firefighters to keep their distance.

Norway’s other two hydrogen stations, one in Skedsmo, another Oslo suburb, and the other in Bergen, have now been closed.

According to Norwegian Hydrogen Forum as of 2018-12-31 there were 148 hydrogen cars registered in Norway: 57 Toyota Mirais, 27 Hyundai Nexos, and 64 Hyundai iX35s. In addition to this there are 5 buses and 1 truck. In contrast, as of the same date there were 200 192 plug in electric vehicles, plus 96 022 hybrid vehicles.

In another post titled Methane vs Electricity, a significantly flawed study from the Munich-based IFO Institute for Economic Research, was examined, along with its support for methane based, hydrogen vehicles.

With this explosion, hydrogen supporters in Norway will have lost much of the little good will that hydrogen fuel cells have built up. It has probably resulted in the last nail being put into the hydrogen car coffin.


These are the ingredients that are the basis of my breakfast during six days of the week. From the left, four grain cereal – the four grains being oats, rye, wheat and barley, then there are containers with hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds (container courtesy Sun-Maid Raisins), almonds and pecans. Culture milk is available in a 1 liter carton. I usually eat an orange or half a grapefruit (alternate days) before the cereal, and sometimes a banana after it. I drink one cup of green tea with breakfast.
This is what the bowl of cereal looks like after culture milk has been added.

Welcome to yet another weblog post about Norwegian culture. All three definitions used, apply here. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, culture can refer to “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” It can also refer to, “the act or process of cultivating living material (such as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media.” A third definition refers to the, “acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills.” This will be done by introducing some norske ord = Norwegian words.

Wikipedia tells us, “Milk is a nutrient-rich, white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for infant mammals (including humans who are breastfed) before they are able to digest other types of food.”

The average Norwegian consumes about 90 liters of melk = milk annually, along with 11 kg of yogurt = yogurt, 10 kg of krem = cream products and about 20 kg of ost = cheese. There are about 10 500 dairy farms in Norway, each with an average of 25 cows. Altogether there are about 230 000 dairy cows in Norway with each cow producing an average of 7 500 kg of milk each year. In addition, there are about 35 000 goats producing about 20 million liters of goat’s milk each year.

Sweet milk must be kept cool so as not to become sour. Without cooling technology, it was impossible to transport milk long distances, whether it was from farm to customer, from farm to dairy or from dairy to shop. The market for milk production was primarily in the cities. Therefore, the production of milk to drink was initially a niche for urban farming or for farms situated on the outskirts of the cities. Farmers who were farther away from the cities produced milk that could be processed into more durable and more easily transportable milk products such as smør = butter or cheese. Refrigeration technology has become increasingly important since the mid-1900s.

Until the middle of the 20th century milk in Norway was sold by the churn or pail. The dairies transported span = churns (milk containers) out to shops. The customers brought their own milk pails to the shops where the serving clerks poured milk from the large dairy churns. The customers also had their own smaller cream pails.

In the 1930s, provisions were made that all milk sold in stores should be pasteurized. Milk bottles were used in the interwar period, first in the big cities. Around 1960, clear glass milk bottles were replaced with brown bottles that better protected the milk from light. The milk bottles were returned by the customers to the stores.

In the 1960s, the melkekartong = milk cartons came into use, and with this, disposable packaging was introduced. By 1980, all Norwegian dairies had replaced bottles with milk cartons.

Since the 1970s, the selection of dairy products in the Norwegian grocery trade has multiplied. Yogurt was introduced around 1970, including yogurt flavored with fruit and berries.

Around 1960, skummet melk = skimmed milk came on the market. Lettmelk = low fat milk was not on sale until 1984, and in the 2000s, extra low fat milk was introduced to the market. Since the 1980s, low fat milk has accounted for an increasing proportion of the drinking milk volume.

Kulturmelk = cultured milk was originally a general type designation for soured milk, but from 2005 (together with skummet kulturmelk = skim cultured milk) it became protected by the Norwegian agricultural industry’s public labeling protected food names and belongs to Tine SA. Cultured milk is referred to by many as surmelk = sour milk as opposed to søtmelk = sweet milk, ordinary whole milk.

In contrast to North America, where similar types of milk can be made through acidification, pure lactic acid bacterial cultures are used to make cultured milk and to give it a distinctive taste and consistency, in contrast to regular homogenized milk. Regular cultured milk contains 3.8% fat, while skim cultured milk contains 0.4% fat.

Cultured milk is consumed as a drink, poured on assorted types of breakfast cereals, and is used as an ingredient in baked goods.

In Norway, one finds many other soured milk products. Tettemelk = dense milk and skjør are old varieties of Nordic cultured milk. Kefir is undoubtedly even older, but its use in Norway is more recent, as is that of yogurt. Cultura and Biola, which are Tine brands, are flavored cultured milk. Kesam or kvarg = quark, is a fresh cheese made from skimmed cultured milk.

I consume cultured milk almost exclusively, despite having to read the carton in Nynorsk = New Norwegian, the second and less popular Norwegian language that originates along the West Coast of Norway: Kulturmjølk. Syrna mjølk med lange tradisjonar. Heftig og frisk smak – ikkje ulik naturen mjølka kjem frå. (Nynorsk) = Kulturmelk. Surmelk med lange tradisjoner. Sterk og frisk smak – ikke ulik naturen melken kommer fra. (Bokmål) = Cultured Milk. Sour milk with long traditions. Strong and fresh taste – not unlike the nature, milk come from.

An irritation: Tine insists on telling me that cultured milk is traditional. I disagree. It is a modern, bacteriological enhanced milk product that has some superficial similarities to historic varieties. I also object to statements about milk being a natural product. It is a product from industrialized agriculture.

More information about milk (in Norwegian) can be found at: melk.no

An aside about food security

“Food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe food for an adequate diet that meets their nutritional needs and preferences, and which forms the basis for an active and healthy life.” United Nations definition

The term is sometimes used indiscriminately to cover also food safety, which means that the food does not contain microorganisms, environmental toxins or additives that negatively impact health, when food items are prepared and consumed as intended.

Norway is a net exporter of sea food. It produces more than enough of everything needed domestically, and its sea food exports significantly exceed its sea food imports. Norway is self-sufficient in milk. It is largely self-sufficient when it comes to meat. However, where it fails is its considerable – and increasing – deficit with respect to plant produce. It is now able to provide considerably less than 50%.

It is this lack of sufficiency in plant materials, that is prompting me to build a community greenhouse, with other members of Friends of the Earth, Inderøy, and to experiment with hydroponic gardening.

At this point, I should probably add that I do not have anything against gene modified organisms in principal. I would have no objection to using an artificial milk that is produced through bacterial processes, in vats. It seems much more humane than keeping cows. This does not mean that I support other gene modifications, such as Monsanto/ Bayer and their use of glyphosate herbicides. However, I have studied genetic engineering and microbiology, and see both fields as important contributors to increasing stocks of nutritious foods, if done properly.