June 14, 2022 | Massachusetts Materials Technologies, LLC
Conversations about the energy transition, decarbonization, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores are more commonplace for stakeholders in the energy industry today. With these discussions, material verification will become fundamental to informed decision-making for the future of energy.
Hydrogen’s Role in the Energy Transition
The application of hydrogen is a key topic of conversation in the energy transition. In theory, using hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen is also a very versatile fuel source . Hydrogen transportation is also happening today – approximately 1,600 miles of hydrogen pipelines currently operate in the United States .
Blending hydrogen with natural gas pipeline transmission systems is the most widely proposed method of integrating hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure. Unlike renewable energy resources (i.e. solar and wind) which may require entirely new infrastructure systems for efficient transportation, blended hydrogen uses infrastructure that already exists and is accessible to current energy users. For these reasons, hydrogen’s applications in the industry are among the most realistic alternatives being discussed.
Options for blends have typically limited the hydrogen concentration to 5-15% in natural gas pipelines to avoid dramatically increasing risk or reducing the safety, durability, and integrity of pipelines.
Hydrogen’s Integrity Concern: Embrittlement of Steel Pipe
The risk of embrittlement, or the loss of ductility, is a major concern for steel pipes transporting hydrogen-methane blends. As steel loses ductility, and therefore becomes more brittle, it is less capable of accommodating stress. The threat of hydrogen embrittlement and cracking depends on the concentration of hydrogen, operating pressure, and the strength of the steel. Research shows that high-strength steel (>100 ksi yield strength) has a greater risk of cracking, while low-strength steel may lose tensile ductility .
The effects of hydrogen on seam welds and girth welds are also important considerations and will require further review by operators. Accurate material property data will be critical to monitoring the safety and risk of hydrogen-blend transmission pipelines.
Material Verification for Hydrogen Applications
Given the vintage of most pipelines in the United States, close monitoring and a complete understanding of accurate material property data will be paramount. Operators will need consistent, accurate material property data for decisions regarding converting pipelines to be compatible with hydrogen-natural gas blends.
While the applications of hydrogen and the full effects of the energy transition are still to be seen (and likely won’t come to full fruition for many years to come), the time to investigate and consider what the next phase of energy will look like is now.
MMT’s HSD Tester technology is currently used to assess material properties in a safe, sustainable, and affordable way compared to destructive testing. In the future of the energy transition, the ability to assess material properties—using the HSD Tester and guided by the MMTConnect software—enables operators to collect the information they need to make informed decisions. This information will clarify the roles of operators’ assets as ESG, the energy transition, decarbonization, and fuel alternatives define the future of the energy industry.
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The Role of Material Property Verification in the Energy Transition
1. Kileti, Pradheep, and Christopher Cavanagh. The Second Gas Conversion – Renewable Natural Gas and Hydrogen. Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) 2022 Research Exchange, 2022.
2. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Hydrogen Pipelines. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
3. Melaina, M W, Antonia, O, and Penev, M. Blending Hydrogen into Natural Gas Pipeline Networks: A Review of Key Issues. United States: N. p., 2013. Web. doi:10.2172/1068610.