The Climate Change Act requires significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, this creates strong incentives for using a carbon-free energy supply. Alternatives to carbon-based fuels will be required not only in electricity generation but also in the full energy system: in our buildings, industry, and transportation. Hydrogen is set to play a key role in the UK’s full energy system, there are plans to use it as a heating/natural gas replacement solution for UK dwellings, in reducing emissions from industrial heat (for example, in furnaces), as a replacement for the natural gas used in power generation, and in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. it is estimated that the hydrogen demand from industry will reach 115 TWh/year by 2050 (Silvian Baltac, 2019)
The most efficient way to transport the large quantities of hydrogen required is by pipeline. The pipeline transportation of hydrogen is a fundamental technology that will underpin a large proportion of future applications. The scale of this undertaking has never been attempted before anywhere in the world and presents key scientific challenges that need to be resolved immediately. The key problem is how to transport the massive volumes of hydrogen from its production sites to its required destinations in a safe manner with minimal damage caused to the environment. Hydrogen is a small molecule with high buoyancy, which means there is an increased risk of leakage through pipes during transportation. Hydrogen is an extremely powerful fuel that can ignite with very low energy input, therefore it is critical that hydrogen pipelines are inspected regularly to detect defects to prevent failures and consequently damage and pollution to the surrounding environment. Pipeline inline inspection tools are commonly used in the industry to ensure leaks and failures do not occur. However, none exist for operation in hydrogen pipelines.
Pipeline in-line inspection enables defects to be detected before they can cause a pipeline failure. Defects detection and monitoring can prevent any hydrogen pollution and damage to the environment. A new pipeline inspection tool will be developed in this project which is optimised for safe operation in hydrogen pipelines.
The data collected during the testing of the inspection tool will be used to create a model capable of predicting the expected rate and frequency of hydrogen leakage along a pipeline. This model will be based on a probabilistic approach and will be able to be used by hydrogen pipeline operators and regulatory bodies as part of an environmental risk analysis for transporting large volumes of hydrogen.
The overall aims of the project are to create a hydrogen pipeline integrity framework, which includes a hydrogen pipeline inspection tool capable of detecting defects before a leakage occurs so that leakages are prevented. This investigation will leverage existing knowledge in pipeline inspection, while the requirement specifications for hydrogen pipeline inspection will be identified to inform a new inspection tool design and analysis model.
To achieve these aims, the project will address four objectives:
1. Investigate the failure modes of hydrogen pipelines, to inform the definition of an inspection specification.
2. Research into the design and operational parameters of hydrogen pipelines.
3. Define a set of requirement specifications.
4. Design, build and validate a benchtop level prototype.
5. Create a predictive model for hydrogen transportation leakage.