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An Investigation into the Volumetric Flow Rate Requirement of Hydrogen Transportation in Existing Natural Gas Pipelines and Its Safety Implications


As an alternative to the construction of new infrastructure, repurposing existing natural gas pipelines for hydrogen transportation has been identified as a low-cost strategy for substituting natural gas with hydrogen in the wake of the energy transition. In line with that, a 342 km, 3600 natural gas pipeline was used in this study to simulate some technical implications of delivering the same amount of energy with different blends of natural gas and hydrogen, and with 100% hydrogen. Preliminary findings from the study confirmed that a three-fold increase in volumetric flow rate would be required of hydrogen to deliver an equivalent amount of energy as natural gas. The effects of flowing hydrogen at this rate in an existing natural gas pipeline on two flow parameters (the compressibility factor and the velocity gradient) which are crucial to the safety of the pipeline were investigated. The compressibility factor behaviour revealed the presence of a wide range of values as the proportions of hydrogen and natural gas in the blends changed, signifying disparate flow behaviours and consequent varying flow challenges. The velocity profiles showed that hydrogen can be transported in natural gas pipelines via blending with natural gas by up to 40% of hydrogen in the blend without exceeding the erosional velocity limits of the pipeline. However, when the proportion of hydrogen reached 60%, the erosional velocity limit was reached at 290 km, so that beyond this distance, the pipeline would be subject to internal erosion. The use of compressor stations was shown to be effective in remedying this challenge. This study provides more insights into the volumetric and safety considerations of adopting existing natural gas pipelines for the transportation of hydrogen and blends of hydrogen and natural gas.

Related subjects: Safety

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