An explosion at a hydrogen fuel cell plant in Long View, North Carolina damaged 60 homes and could be felt miles from the facility, firefighters said Tuesday.
The explosion happened at the OneH2 hydrogen fuel cell plant, which the company says is the only facility of its type on the East Coast. None of the 44 employees at the plant were injured, according to a spokesperson for Hickory County, NC firefighters.
“The call came in this morning at 8:36, it was called in as an explosion,” the spokesperson said. “It was felt many miles away. A lot of reports we've received said miles—I definitely felt it, I was a couple miles away. No injuries were reported, which is amazing.” She said one house was left “uninhabitable” by the explosion, and that other houses had their windows destroyed or shingles blown off.
The blast was first reported by Dave Faherty of WSOC9 television news.
The spokesperson said that firefighters were still on the scene as of 3:45 p.m. and were working to clean it up. They had not yet begun an investigation into the cause of the explosion, the spokesperson said, but one was scheduled to begin momentarily.
Firefighters are “keeping water on the tanks to keep them cool,” she said.
An air traffic control officer who witnessed the blast said on a video posted to Twitter it was a "fairly large explosion."
"I didn’t just hear it, I felt it," the air traffic control officer said on tower radio. "About pulled the windows out of the tower. It’s over there near the city. There was some smoke came up, it was some clear smoke. I don’t know if it was a gas line explosion or what it was.”
Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emissions fuel that many see as a possible alternative to harmful fossil fuels. In March 2019, OneH2 announced it had built the East Coast’s only dedicated hydrogen fuel plant, which was designed to power forklifts and semi trucks.
“Primarily servicing today's hydrogen powered forklift fleets, the stage one project based in Longview, NC, will provide zero emission fuel to about 1,000 industrial trucks throughout the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia,” the company said in a press release announcing the new factory.
A call to OneH2 hydrogen was not answered and an email to a spokesperson was not immediately returned.