The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE), Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) has announced a research project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to evaluate existing domestic oil and natural gas infrastructure and provide a Geographical Assessment of Natural Gas Infrastructure and Pipeline Materials for Blended Gas Transport for hydrogen, methane and other gas blends.

Hydrogen is emerging as a low-carbon fuel option for transportation, electricity generation, and manufacturing applications that will accelerate the United States’ transition to a low-carbon economy.  However, a key challenge is to ensure the efficient and effective transportation of hydrogen to market.

The Nation’s existing natural gas pipeline network offers the potential to expedite increased transport of blends of hydrogen and other gases, such as methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide (CO2) without building an extensive and expensive new transport infrastructure. Hydrogen and ammonia offer a path to a carbon-free economy, while the delivery of large quantities of CO2 can enhance both the scalability and efficiency of carbon capture technologies.

Efficient transport requires flexibility and pipelines that are able to handle both single gas components and blended mixtures, as well as intermittent and alternating gas chemistries. The compatibility of hydrogen-natural gas mixtures (hythane) with pipeline materials and their supporting infrastructure has been studied from a materials compatibility and performance perspective. However, the compatibility of pipeline materials and structures has not been sufficiently characterized for ammonia  and CO2. Additionally, the current regional uncertainties regarding pipeline materials and methods of construction and their location of use preclude or limit the introduction of hydrogen and other gases in established natural gas pipelines.

The project announced today will perform a geographical assessment of natural gas pipelines and related infrastructure materials for the transport of gas blends, and it will investigate the compatibility of those materials with hydrogen, ammonia, and CO2. The compatibility assessment of pipeline materials with blended gas transport at a geographical level will help inform decisions on introducing non-traditional gases into existing and future natural gas infrastructure.

The project will also deliver geographic information system (GIS) architecture needed for assessing infrastructure material compatibility at the national scale to predict challenges associated with blended gas transport.

Researchers will also develop a methodology to assess regional pipeline construction materials by utilizing existing pipeline databases and operator surveys, as well as new data fields. As further data needs and gaps are identified, they will prioritize and perform a granular assessment of pipeline material compatibility and opportunities for infrastructure retrofitting, replacement and reuse. This assessment will inform policy makers and energy markets on the United States’ capability to leverage existing natural gas infrastructure to help advance a clean hydrogen economy.

The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management funds research and development projects to advance fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about our programs, visit the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management website or sign up for FECM news announcements. More information about the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is available on the ORNL website.