Increasing the use of hydrogen and exploring new processes for the production and use of hydrogen using the existing gas distribution and storage infrastructure will require identification of and responses to several safety issues. Recent studies on market penetration of hydrogen anticipate many applications, which will require considerable additions to the transportation and storage infrastructure. Some of these will result in new safety concerns that need to be addressed.
Blending hydrogen into natural gas pipeline networks has been proposed as a means of delivering pure hydrogen to markets using separation.
Separation and purification technologies will be used downstream to extract hydrogen from the natural gas blend close to the point of end use. As a hydrogen delivery method, blending can defray the cost of building dedicated hydrogen pipelines or other costly delivery infrastructure during the early market development phase. However, blending hydrogen can materially degrade pipelines designed for natural gas (via hydrogen embrittlement). The risk involved depends on the specific types of materials used throughout the transportation and distribution systems
The impact of adding hydrogen into the pipeline systems would also depend on the hydrogen concentration in the gas mixtures. If less than 20% hydrogen is introduced into the distribution system, the overall risk is not significant. If the hydrogen level in natural gas increases beyond 20%, the overall risk in service lines can significantly increase, absent additional risk management measures. Construction of new pipelines, either natural gas pipelines that will be used for a blended gas or hydrogen dedicated lines, will require consideration of the challenges that hydrogen poses during transportation by pipeline. Adequate safety provisions can be made if there is a thorough understanding of these risks.
If the amount of hydrogen being produced and utilized is to increase substantially, storage near the site of production and storage near end uses are likely to be required. Analogies to this situation already exist for natural gas, but steps to address novel safety considerations, revised regulations, and tightened design standards may be needed. Solutionmined salt caverns, depleted natural gas or oil reservoirs, and saline aquifers are considered possible options for large scale and long-term hydrogen storage. These storage options are currently used for natural gas storage.
Currently, several existing U.S. and international standards allow the safe use, distribution, and storage of hydrogen.
These standards are focused on the current hydrogen infrastructure, including building codes, fire codes, and items pertaining to technologies used to transport and store hydrogen.Within the United States, interest in hydrogen in the first decade of this century led to the passage of several laws that created financial incentives and regulatory requirements. Several states have passed laws to encourage development of stationary hydrogen applications.
These acts establish provisions for tax incentives aimed at promoting infrastructure development that supports hydrogen stationary power technologies. In addition, there are production tax credits based on the amount of electricity produced from stationary hydrogen power sources.
Looking toward an expanded hydrogen infrastructure, it is important to note that globally, the state of existing regulations and standards currently limits hydrogen uptake. Certain regulations are unclear or not written with new uses of hydrogen in mind. Therefore, they do not allow exploitation of the full benefits hydrogen can provide. These regulations need to be updated if hydrogen is to have the opportunity to fulfill its potential.
It is important to identify the options being pursued and to ensure that essential standards and regulations exist to cover these nascent applications (processes, infrastructure, and end use). The current framework provides a sound basis, but gaps have been recognized, and critical needs should be addressed during the developmental phase of new technologies in coordination with EERE