In the UK, 30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from domestic heating and cooking. One popular suggested solution to reduce these emissions is switching the heating network from natural gas to hydrogen as the combustion of hydrogen produces just water vapour and heat and no CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.
With 45,000km of pipeline installed in the North Sea, there is considerable opportunity to take advantage of this infrastructure. In a recent study for the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), Xodus explored the feasibility of converting the subsea pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen service and how this would fit with a future energy industry that also requires carbon capture and storage (CCS). The analysis was divided into three parts:
- A materials analysis to review the restrictions imposed by hydrogen service
- A geographical information systems (GIS) study to identify key strategic locations in England and Scotland based on existing storage and production infrastructures
- The measures needed for qualifying the existing pipelines for hydrogen service.
Safety and performance of hydrogen pipelines
To phase out fossil fuels and meet increasing energy demand, a ‘hydrogen economy’ is being created to provide energy in several forms (see Figure 1). The transport of hydrogen by pipelines is highly proven. As of 2016, there were around 4,500km of hydrogen pipelines worldwide[i]. These pipelines are mainly operated by industrial gas producers and located near large refineries and chemical plants.
The longest network of pipelines is found in the US, around 2,600km, and Western Europe – mainly in Belgium, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. The pipeline size is typically 8-12 inches, which is sufficient to satisfy specific plant requirements. Pipeline pressures vary according to the networks and, in general, range from 3 bar to 100 bar. More frequently, these hydrogen pipelines operate in the range 40 to 60 bar[ii].
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