Decarbonisation of heat by repurposing the UK’s local transmission pipeline system
UK carbon emissions commitments will entail moving away from
natural gas for heat. Hydrogen has been proposed as the most
practical energy vector capable of delivering low-carbon energy at
the scale required.
Repurposing the UK's local transmission system (LTS) of
underground pipelines for either hydrogen or carbon dioxide
transport requires a robust scientific assessment to ensure that
all critical technical, operational and safety challenges have been
identified and addressed.
How is HSE helping?
HSE scientists and engineers in partnership with SGN carried out
a feasibility study to assess the potential for transporting
hydrogen, hydrogen-natural gas blends, or carbon dioxide in
sections of the UK's LTS.
Expertise in fluid dynamics, materials science and risk
assessment was used to determine where modifications may be
required in existing pipeline standards to accommodate the
different gas types.
In the case of hydrogen transport, the effects of potential
changes in mechanical properties of the steel pipelines on
integrity and lifetime were evaluated. Case studies on sections of
the LTS pipeline were then used to demonstrate approaches that
would be required for safe repurposing for the two gases.
What did we learn?
The project identified the gaps to be addressed to ensure safe
pipeline repurposing, covering materials performance, inspection,
maintenance, repair, risk assessment, land use planning, procedures
and standards. These were presented and evaluated at the LTS
workshop organised by SGN in 2020, with attendees from across
The required activities to move towards pipeline repurposing for
hydrogen are now being progressed by a cross-industry IGEM
(Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers)-led group to allow the
gas networks to decarbonise.
HSE, (2021). Sixth Annual Science Review,
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