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Transporting gaseous hydrogen via existing pipelines is a low-cost option for delivering large volumes of hydrogen. The high initial capital costs of new pipeline construction constitute a major barrier to expanding hydrogen pipeline delivery infrastructure. Research today therefore focuses on overcoming technical concerns related to pipeline transmission, including:
- The potential for hydrogen to embrittle the steel and welds used to fabricate the pipelines
- The need to control hydrogen permeation and leaks
- The need for lower cost, more reliable, and more durable hydrogen compression technology.
Potential solutions include using fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) pipelines for hydrogen distribution. The installation costs for FRP pipelines are about 20% less than that of steel pipelines because the FRP can be obtained in sections that are much longer than steel,1,2 minimizing welding requirements.
One possibility for rapidly expanding the hydrogen delivery infrastructure is to adapt part of the natural gas delivery infrastructure to accommodate hydrogen. Converting natural gas pipelines to carry a blend of natural gas and hydrogen (up to about 15% hydrogen) may require only modest modifications to the pipeline.3 Converting existing natural gas pipelines to deliver pure hydrogen may require more substantial modifications. Current research and analyses are examining both approaches.
1 See the Natural Gas Pipeline Technology Overview from Argonne National Laboratory.
2 FRP can be delivered in lengths of up to 0.5 mile.
3 See the National Renewable Energy Laboratory report Blending Hydrogen into Natural Gas Pipeline Networks: A Review of Key Issues.