Enhancement of natural gas pipelines to Hydrogen transport
Released on March 15, 2021 by Leandro Soares da Costa, Director at Tupi Energy
The most common ways of transporting hydrogen are in compressed gas cylinders, in cryogenic liquid tankers, and in pipelines. Although gaseous hydrogen has a lower density than when it is presented in liquid form, the transport of gaseous hydrogen through pipelines is still the most efficient method for applications that demand large volumes, due to mass-related restrictions caused by the use of gas cylinders and tankers.
The initial investment in new pipelines can become a critical element in the evaluation of project costs. Feasibility studies have been carried out to identify solutions for the transport of hydrogen considering pre-existing natural gas pipelines, which are commonly manufactured with carbon steel, and are subjected to embrittlement when in contact with hydrogen, reducing its ductility and load bearing capacity.
The hydrogen embrittlement phenomena can be mitigated if an appropriate coating system is applied on the internal surface of the pipe, preventing the absorption of hydrogen in atomic or molecular forms. Different types of coating have been developed to protect steel structures against hydrogen. However, traditional methods of coating application in pre-existing pipelines may not be feasible, especially for long sections installed in remote areas.
Several stakeholders have been demonstrating interest of investing in solutions to help in the enhancement of pre-existing natural gas pipelines to hydrogen transport. In the European Hydrogen Backbone 2020 report, issued by a consortium comprising 11 European gas infrastructure companies in partnership with Guidehouse, a total estimated investment of €21B is expected up to 2040 in the enhancement of pre-existing pipelines in ten European countries.
To attend that demand, Tupi Energy has been developing a pipeline pigging system that enables the application of coating on long sections of pipe in remote areas. The equipment comprises modules where electronic, magnetic and ultrasonic sensors, as well as injection and heating devices, are embedded to enable the inspection and preparation of the pipeline, and the application of the appropriate coating, allowing the detection of defects and anomalies, removal of harmful particles, and the adherence of the coating material.