The use of hydrogen in the energy sector of the United States is projected to increase significantly in the future. Current uses are predominantly in the petroleum refining sector, with hydrogen also being used in the manufacture of chemicals and other specialized products. Growth in hydrogen consumption is likely to appear in the refining sector, where greater quantities of hydrogen will be required as the quality of the raw crude decreases, and in the mining and processing of tar sands and other energy resources that are not currently used at a significant level. Furthermore, the use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel has been proposed both by automobile manufacturers and the federal government. Assuming that the use of hydrogen will significantly increase in the future, there would be a corresponding need to transport this material. A variety of production technologies are available for making hydrogen, and there are equally varied raw materials. Potential raw materials include natural gas, coal, nuclear fuel, and renewables such as solar, wind, or wave energy. As these raw materials are not uniformly distributed throughout the United States, it would be necessary to transport either the raw materials or the hydrogen long distances to the appropriate more » markets. While hydrogen may be transported in a number of possible forms, pipelines currently appear to be the most economical means of moving it in large quantities over great distances. One means of controlling hydrogen pipeline costs is to use common rights-of-way (ROWs) whenever feasible. For that reason, information on hydrogen pipelines is the focus of this document. Many of the features of hydrogen pipelines are similar to those of natural gas pipelines. Furthermore, as hydrogen pipeline networks expand, many of the same construction and operating features of natural gas networks would be replicated. As a result, the description of hydrogen pipelines will be very similar to that of natural gas pipelines. The following discussion will focus on the similarities and differences between the two pipeline networks. Hydrogen production is currently concentrated in refining centers along the Gulf Coast and in the Farm Belt. These locations have ready access to natural gas, which is used in the steam methane reduction process to make bulk hydrogen in this country. Production centers could possibly change to lie along coastlines, rivers, lakes, or rail lines, should nuclear power or coal become a significant energy source for hydrogen production processes. Should electrolysis become a dominant process for hydrogen production, water availability would be an additional factor in the location of production facilities. Once produced, hydrogen must be transported to markets. A key obstacle to making hydrogen fuel widely available is the scale of expansion needed to serve additional markets. Developing a hydrogen transmission and distribution infrastructure would be one of the challenges to be faced if the United States is to move toward a hydrogen economy. Initial uses of hydrogen are likely to involve a variety of transmission and distribution methods. Smaller users would probably use truck transport, with the hydrogen being in either the liquid or gaseous form. Larger users, however, would likely consider using pipelines. This option would require specially constructed pipelines and the associated infrastructure. Pipeline transmission of hydrogen dates back to late 1930s. These pipelines have generally operated at less than 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi), with a good safety record. Estimates of the existing hydrogen transmission system in the United States range from about 450 to 800 miles. Estimates for Europe range from about 700 to 1,100 miles (Mohipour et al. 2004; Amos 1998). These seemingly large ranges result from using differing criteria in determining pipeline distances. For example, some analysts consider only pipelines above a certain diameter as transmission lines. Others count only those pipelines that transport hydrogen from a producer to a customer (e.g., those pipelines designed for in-plant transport of hydrogen for use as feedstock or fuel are not counted). Operational status and hydrogen purity levels are also factors in defining these ranges. Hydrogen pipelines in the United States are predominantly along the Gulf Coast and connect major hydrogen producers with well-established, long-term customers. These hydrogen transmission systems pall by comparison with the 180,000-mile natural gas transmission pipeline. Since 1939, Germany has had a 130-mile pipeline carrying 20,000 lb/hour of hydrogen in a 10-inch pipe at 290 psi gauge (psig). The longest hydrogen pipeline in Europe is owned by Air Liquide and extends 250 miles from Northern France to Belgium. In theory, a blend of up to 20% hydrogen in natural gas can be transported without modifying natural gas pipelines (Oney et al. 1994). « le

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Published on 01/01/2008

Volume 2008, 2008
DOI: 10.2172/924391
Licence: CC BY-NC-SA license

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