This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Michael Istre discussing the newly published INGAA study on blending hydrogen into natural gas systems, the issue of pipeline integrity with the introduction of hydrogen and separation of LNG terminals
In this episode, you will learn about the six key topics of the study, as well as the design, operation and risk considerations with the addition of hydrogen and ways this new implementation could affect previously enforced codes.
INGAA Study on Blending Hydrogen Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms:
- Michael Istre is the Project Manager for the INGAA Foundation. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
- The INGAA Foundation is the trade organization for the full value chain of the North American interstate natural gas industry. It facilitates the safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally responsible design, construction, operation and maintenance of the North American natural gas transmission system to advance the delivery of natural gas for the benefit of the consuming public, the economy and the environment.
- INGAA (Interstate Natural Gas Association of America) is a trade organization of interstate Operators, that advocates regulatory and legislative positions of importance to the natural gas pipeline industry in North America. INGAA is comprised of 26 members, representing the vast majority of the interstate natural gas transmission pipeline companies in the U.S. and Canada. INGAA members operate almost 200,000 miles of pipeline.
- For a copy of the report executive summary, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- INGAA Foundation Value Statement
- Hydrogen Gas is a clean energy carrier that can be used to store, move, and deliver energy produced from other sources. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of domestic resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind. These qualities make it an attractive fuel option for transportation and electricity generation applications. It can be used in cars, in houses, for portable power, and in many more applications.
- Hydrogen Injection or Hydrogen Blending is the concept of adding Hydrogen gas to existing natural gas pipelines, and delivering a carefully controlled blend of gasses to the customer, with the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of the fuel. While simple in concept, this is a complex and potentially deadly process, since hydrogen may embrittle certain steel pipes, resulting in catastrophic failure. On a volume basis, at a given pressure, Hydrogen provides only a small fraction of the energy that is provided by natural gas, which can cause difficulty in end use devices.
- Specified Minimum Yield Strength (SMYS) means the specified minimum yield strength for steel pipe manufactured in accordance with a listed specification.
- Metallurgy is used to determine the appropriate metals to use in the construction of oil and gas equipment and pipelines.
- FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) regulates, monitors, and investigates electricity, natural gas, hydropower, oil matters, natural gas pipelines, LNG terminals, hydroelectric dams, electric transmission, energy markets, and pricing.
- British Thermal Unit (BTU) is a basic unit of energy used in the US. It is the amount of energy needed to raise 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit while at sea level.
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state (liquefied), at about -260° Fahrenheit, for shipping and storage. The volume of natural gas in its liquid state is about 600 times smaller than its volume in its gaseous state in a natural gas pipeline.
- PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) ensures the safe transportation of energy and hazardous materials.
- PIR (Potential Impact Radius) is defined by PHMSA (49 CFR subpart 192.903) as the radius of a circle within which the potential failure of a pipeline could have significant impact on people or property.
- ILI (In-line Inspection) is a method to assess the integrity and condition of a pipeline by determining the existence of corrosion, cracks, deformations, or other structural issues that could cause a leak.
INGAA Study on Blending Hydrogen Full Episode Transcript:
Russel Treat: Welcome to “The Pipeliners Podcast,” episode 302, sponsored by Enersys Corporation, providers of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System. Compliance and operations software for the pipeline control center to address control room management, SCADA, and audit readiness.
Find out more about POEMS at EnerSysCorp.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. And now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to The Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show the appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler every episode. This week our winner is Melissa Emery with Boardwalk Pipelines. Congratulations, Melissa. Your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this prize, stick around until the end of the episode.
This week on The Pipeliners Podcast, we speak to Michael Istre with INGAA and discuss the recent INGAA study on hydrogen blending in natural gas transmission pipelines. Mike, welcome to The Pipeliners Podcast.
Michael Istre: Thanks, Russel. It’s great to be here. I’ve listened to the podcast many times. I have even won the YETI cup, so it’s a pleasure to actually participate.
Russel: Do you proudly place that YETI cup on your office desk so that everyone can see it and help me promote the podcast?
Michael: Absolutely, and try to get as many people subscribing as possible.
Russel: There you go. Excellent.
Look, this is your first time on the podcast. Maybe you could give us a little bit about your background, who you are, and a bit about your career, and how you landed in your current role.
Michael: Sure thing. I’m Mike Istre. I’m currently the project manager for the INGAA Foundation, but before that I was a design engineer for pipelines for over 20 years for a consulting company. I’m actually a third generation pipeliner, with my grandfather and father both starting out with United Gas from the distribution side.
Then, I stumbled into this role in the mid ’90s as a young engineer, wanting to look for something different than manufacturing. That’s how I started building things that are round with a hole in them. I really don’t care what’s flowing through them.
Been with the Foundation now since 2017 as the project manager. My role there is to do things like this, to disseminate our research program so that everyone is aware of what we are doing for the natural gas industry.
Russel: I think you’ve just teed up a whole another episode we need to do, which is pipeline stories that our grandfather told me.
Russel: I’ve actually done some stuff like that. I think you’re the second person I’ve talked to who’s a third generation pipeliner. Some of the things that our grandparents did around pipelining, it’s a bit of a mind bend because there’s a lot that’s the same and a lot that’s quite different.
Michael: Oh, absolutely, especially south Louisiana where I grew up. I think everyone’s had some kind of touch on the oil and gas industry here at some point in their life.
Russel: No doubt. That’s definitely true.
Look, I asked you to come on and talk about the recent INGAA hydrogen blending study. I’ve done several podcasts on hydrogen and hydrogen blending. Most of that has been focused more on the distribution.
I know that INGAA did a study about hydrogen blending in transmission lines. There’s different issues there because of the higher pressures and so forth. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what was the focus of the INGAA transmission study for hydrogen blending.
Michael: Sure. Just to take one step back to two organizations, there’s INGAA, which is the group of pipeline operators, the interstate pipeline operators, and the INGAA Foundation, which is open for service providers, as well. We’re related.
This study was actually done by both groups. INGAA, as part of their Integrity Management Continuous Improvement Initiative, version 2.0, established a hydrogen subgroup. The foundation then took this project idea, as well, and funded it. We contracted it out to Mott MacDonald to do a lot of the research.
There was a full steering committee involved, as well. As you said, our focus was to synthesize and go through this tremendous amount of research that’s being done on hydrogen and hydrogen blending in the world and take out what is specific to the transmission pipe industry.
To do that, we define the transmission pipe as operating above 50 percent SMYS to differentiate that from all of the studies that you mentioned about distribution lines, lower pressure lines.
We do know that there are some specific issues once you get into the higher pressure realms for interstate pipes, especially as we’ve been talking about this in a blending sense and having to go very long distances and utilizing these assets more than they were anticipated for.
We broke it down into six key themes. One was to figure out what are hydrogen’s properties? What is this new thing that we’re going to have to deal with and understand what’s going on?
If you know, this is a component that we’ve been actively trying to keep out of the pipeline since we started building natural gas pipelines. Now, we’re having to make this paradigm shift into like, “OK, we’re going to have to put it back in. What does that mean to how we operate?”
Let’s understand exactly what this thing is that we don’t have that much experience with, which I’ll…
Russel: Mike, if I might interrupt you. I mean many people probably know this, but for those that don’t, why have we spent so much effort trying to keep hydrogen out of pipelines?
Michael: The biggest thing is the interaction – it’s a small molecule – with steel and it cracking, and it’s hydrogen induced cracking and hydrogen induced corrosion. These are items that are specifically defined in many regulations and codes that you need to keep this to a minimum because of these issues with the metallurgy.
That’s why we’ve been so active in trying to keep it out of the system, which brings up the third of our focuses is material integrity. What do we need to do now that we’re putting this component back in?
We want to look at personnel safety, not only just the safety and the risk associated with the asset, but we have operators. What happens during blowdowns? What happens during any minor leaks, or off leaking if you’re still using control valves that are using pressurized gas for their force and their venting.
What do we need to know? Are there sensors available? What are those sensors supposed to look out for, and what are those risks for human personnel as we move forward?
With any large transport of a fuel, we have to have storage. What are issues with underground storage? Can we use aquifers for storage? Do we have to use salt caverns only? What are our options there for large underground storage components?
There just hasn’t been a lot of information out there to know what are our risks as we move forward. Then finally, we’re looking at any specific operation and maintenance updates that we’re going to have to create and modify as we move forward in this process.
Russel: That’s a lot. I guess the first question that I would ask is what were the gaps you identified and research that’s needed that doesn’t yet exist? Was there much of that?
Michael: There really weren’t a lot of gaps. It’s the comfort level with what we’re understanding as we move forward. In the United States there are some existing hydrogen pipelines, but all of our experiences are coupled to about 1,500 miles of pipeline that’s operating 100 percent hydrogen.
These are mostly feedstock for the chemical industry. Most of them are less than 20 inches in diameter. There’s only a few that actually fall under our transmission definition.
The experience component is really missing to have that comfort level of how do we operate these things? What’s going to happen when we start putting this product in? That’s the biggest item that we found in the gap.
Russel: So it’s not so much about available information, it’s really about engineer comfort, operator comfort.
Michael: Exactly. Operator comfort, as I said, we’ve been working very actively to keep this thing out of the pipe. Now, we’re putting it back in. What are the engineers and operators going to need to do to become comfortable?
After we get through that initial refurbishment of the asset to make it compatible with the product, then are you comfortable in operating that product, that asset, with a certain level of product within it? If so, what are those risks?
As I said, hydrogen and steel, old steel, particularly, that may have some latent defects in it. They don’t play that well together. What are you going to have to do now actively in your integrity management program to ensure that, as we all want, keep that product in the pipe?
Russel: Absolutely. Keep it in the pipe, man.
Did you discover, in doing this research or in building this report, anything that you would consider a critical flaw or a currently not well-mitigated risk?
Michael: We did not identify anything that we’re saying that there’s a consensus of a fatal flaw. There will be assets that will not be able to transport a certain blend of hydrogen. That has to be accepted by the operators.
Really, what we were intending to do is complete a sentence of, “Yes, we can blend X percent of hydrogen in our natural gas transmission system, but we will have to do X, Y, and Z in order to make that happen.”
That second half of the sentence is what we were trying to complete, to make sure everyone is aware that while we’re moving down this path, that there’s a…It’s not an overnight type of…Let’s hook up a hydrogen production system and put it into the pipe. Everything’s going to be going well and nothing bad is going to happen.
There’s a lot of work that has to happen before we can even turn that valve.
Russel: Yeah, that’s a great tee up because that’s my next question. What are the design, operating, and risk considerations? Can you give us a summary of what those things are?
Michael: From an integrity standpoint, as much as operators have been working to know their assets up until this point to get to the traceable, verifiable, complete record keeping, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s going to have to be multiple integrity runs to characterize the pipe that you have to define what that acceptable defect is for any cracks that you may find through those runs and know, “Do I have to repair them? Will it be a cut out? What, exactly, are we going to have to do from a repair scenario in order to prepare the asset to accept a certain level of hydrogen?”
From that point, then you’re looking at your above ground facilities. If you are using gas turbines to drive a compressor for this and you’re using the fuel gas from that pipeline, is your turbine suitably configured in order to burn a methane/hydrogen mixture or will you have to do some refit there?
Then, you’re looking at your soft goods. What are our gaskets? What are our valve seats? All of those other things as we move forward. Do we need to change? Do we need to refit? Is it a complete replacement?
It’s almost starting from scratch to know exactly what that asset is. If you’re going to go down this road of blending hydrogen in your asset, you will have to know everything there is to know about this pipeline that you have.
Russel: What this makes me think of, Mike, is what is the level of knowledge I have for traditional methane service in a transmission pipeline versus what is the level of knowledge I need to have for hydrogen blended?
I think what I’m hearing – I mean to frame this as a question –nis that you need more information than you would need just to do methane because you’ve got to understand what are all the materials, and seals, and such you’re using throughout the entire system and the impact that hydrogen’s going to have on all of that.
Michael: That’s exactly correct. You’re looking at a retrofit of an asset and almost a change of service. That’s where your baseline is starting from. Much easier if you’re going to build it from scratch because you’re going to start and you’re going to define everything before you go into it.
If you’re looking at an asset that you’re trying to refit and repurpose…We’ve been in the industry long enough to know that if you’re identifying an asset that it suitable to be repurposed or you want to use for a different service, that means it’s probably not at its peak of life for your operation.
It’s going to be at its tail end. You’re trying to get more life out of it. Is that the appropriate asset that you’re trying to repurpose? It could be. It’s the perfect A to B point and it’s there. You have it, so utilize it.
You will have to know everything there is to know about it if you want to keep that product in the pipe.
Russel: One of the other podcasts I did with a cathodic corrosion engineer – a guy that really understands the electrochemistry of all of this stuff – he was really breaking down the different kinds of steel and how the hydrogen molecule interacts with the different kinds of steel. Very fascinating, very technical.
That goes to your point about repurposing. Depending on the steel I have in my existing asset, it might be somewhat well suited or it might not be suited at all to hydrogen use.
Michael: Exactly right. People will point to, say, Europe as being potential leaders in doing this work. The assets that they’re looking at are much newer and much more modern metallurgy than some of the assets that we’ve identified here in the US as prime targets to do blending.
It’s not a fair comparison that, oh, they’re ready to do it because they want to. No, they just have a better choice of assets in order to accomplish what they want to accomplish.
Whether you’re doing a hydrogen blend or you’re changing from natural gas to crude oil service, or vice versa, these are all the same questions that you’re going to have to go through in order to make sure that your asset is properly prepared and qualified to move forward.
Russel: We spent a little time talking about the metallurgy aspects and the seal aspects designed for .design analysis and implemented for a new purpose. We haven’t talked about the commercial considerations.
Did INGAA look at what’s going to happen with regards to rates, and FERC, and all that kind of stuff if we move to hydrogen blending?
Michael: As far as this study, we avoided the regulatory aspect of it because it is a large topic and specific topic. We have been talking about it a lot. There will have to be some change in your tariff, there will have to be some change in your rate. Who knows what the contracts are going to look like?
As we went through our technical study, and identified some of the thermodynamic issues, hydrogen has a much lower Btu content than methane. When you blend it, then it’s going to drop the entire mixture down.
If you’re selling your energy on an energy basis, like a decatherm, are you going to change your contract or are you then going to have to transport more volume in order to make the decatherm that your contract is based on.
These are large questions that will have to go. What’s the end user going to do, to burn this? Do they have bigger orifices to get more flow through in order to get the same heat output, and all of those knock on questions as we go further and further down this road.
Russel: Exactly. My premise would be, there’s going to have to be changes in tariffs. I don’t foresee a situation where I could be operating in a lot of end user cases on either pure methane or hydrogen blended methane without a fair amount of retrofit to my equipment.
It’d be simpler to go to all the gas I’m getting is blended versus I’ve got to be able to operate either way. That has all kinds of implications related to how am I blending, where am I blending, what’s the reliability of the blend? Those types of things.
Michael: If you look at today’s market for natural gas, it’s either power generation or export for LNG. Power generation can likely take, with modification, some form of a blended hydrogen/natural gas mixture. We know the LNG terminals don’t want to play in that.
You’re either going to have to come up with a de-blending scenario for deliveries to your LNG customers, or a separate transmission system just to transport non-hydrogen blended methane to your LNG clients.
Again, these are large market items that are outside the scope of this, but certainly within the conversation of what we are talking about in Washington DC, and to the FERC, to the PHMSA, and to all the other regulators, and legislators, to know and understand this isn’t a simple thing.
This is not, “Oh, we can just put hydrogen in and it lowers the carbon intensity. This is our first step to a net zero situation.” OK. Yes, that is true. Again, finishing the sentence, but these are some of the consequences of that.
We need to be ready as a public and a market to understand what those consequences are in order to adjust what we do, how we operate, or how we deliver our product.
Russel: Yeah, I have a theory about should hydrogen really begin to proliferate commercially, how it’s actually going to work? My answer to that is we’re not going to put it in the transmission system. We’re going to figure out how to put it in at the city gate.
It’ll get blended into the utility network, the distribution network. It won’t get blended into the transmission network. As I think, for some of the reasons that you’re pointing out, but that’s purely theory because there’s a lot of pressure for everybody to play.
Michael: Exactly right. From an engineering standpoint, and this is me speaking alone, my preference is you have your dedicated hundred percent hydrogen system. That’s where, if you want to utilize hydrogen as a thermal fuel, then you have its own system.
Natural gas has its place. Maybe it just simply now becomes feedstock to create that hydrogen. Blending them seems to be the low hanging fruit to get to that solution. As we dig deeper and deeper into consequences, it may not be so low.
That fruit may be higher and higher on the tree in order to accomplish what we all want to accomplish, which is, a net zero carbon intensity, and try to get to that goal.
Russel: Let me pivot again on you. I want to talk about PHMSA and the pipeline safety code. Would there be a need to modify elements of 192 to be able to do blended hydrogen methane?
Michael: Since we are within the gas phase, the easy answer is no because everything is within the gas phase from the broad aspect of part 192 in the PHMSA code. Should there be some modifications for blending?
I think once you get into your consequence area determinations, your class location area determinations, because the physical change in an ignited rupture for that potential impact to the surrounding area is going to change with hydrogen included.
We don’t exactly know what that looks like yet. I guess that’s one of the gaps we found is that we have information on what hydrogen looks like when it burns. We have information on what methane looks like when it burns.
We haven’t done any full scale studies of when you put them together and mix them, what does that plume look like and how do we now need to accommodate this as we move forward for class location, hazard areas, potential impact radius.
Russel: Impact radius, all that kind of stuff. That’s exactly where I was going, Michael. That’s one of the other questions I don’t think we’re really ready to answer well yet
Michael: As we move forward into integrity management plans for pipelines, to change how we look at risk and how we look at risk to the public for incidents, then that just makes that, piece of information more important in order to, how do we accommodate physically what’s in the pipe to make sure that the public is safe?
Because that’s the last thing that anybody, one, let’s keep it in the pipe, but if it gets out of the pipe, let’s make sure nobody gets hurt. That’s always on top of the mind of everybody from a design operation, maintenance, etc. Nobody gets hurt, everybody goes home.
Russel: Yeah. Delivery without impact. That’s what we’re striving for here is to deliver the product without impact. Absolutely. What should the transmission operators take away from this conversation? As a follow up to that, what should they be doing right now related to this conversation?
Michael: We do have some of our members who are looking at pilot programs. They haven’t gone public with a lot of results yet. Some of those are still on the distribution side of things. From a transmission side, if a company is really seriously looking into say hydrogen hubs and supporting those larger projects from a blended standpoint, it’s really starting to understand what the asset that you’re planning to utilize will be.
Do you have information on that asset? What are your ILI runs telling you from a crack standpoint? Just get the integrity side of things. It’s that first key step of, is this asset appropriate, or can we qualify it to put a certain blend of hydrogen within it that will not sacrifice the longevity of the asset, or the risk profile of that asset, or the surrounding neighborhoods.
The first thing that transmission companies should be looking at is, what are our knowledge gaps for a particular asset, and how do we fill that gap, and what data do we need in order to know exactly what we have?
Russel: That particular conversation is broader than just hydrogen blending, because there’s a lot of operators that are trying to really get to the whole TVC records. Particularly these older assets, getting that and getting it comprehensively and accurately is very much non-trivial.
Michael: As I said earlier, the TVC records that you may have may not be sufficient in order for you to analyze that pipe and the defects within that pipe to know if you can put the hydrogen in. Sure, if you have x-ray records from 1972, you have a TVC record of that girth well.
Does it tell you the crack or defect size, length, etc. that you need in order to do the analysis to say, “I can blend five percent hydrogen and it will not be a detriment to this asset.”
Russel: Therein lies the question, right?
Russel: This has been awesome, Mike. Is there anything else you want to say to wrap this conversation up?
Michael: I just want to repeat that, while what we published is a risk summary, it’s not a doom and gloom type of report that we wanted to put out. We wanted to put out just a factual summary of the issues associated with the transmission system.
That way people can go in clear headed, wide eyed open to understand when we move down this path, it’s not as simple as some are making it out to be. There are serious issues that need to be addressed. None are fatal.
We can fix everything and all the points that we’ve identified. These are not out of the realm of impossibility. It just takes the dedication and resources to do it. That’s all we wanted to do really, was to identify what those key pieces and points of information are as we move forward down this path.
Russel: As for me, I have a lot of faith and confidence in the quality and capability of the engineering and operations expertise in the pipelining business. Pipeliners are serious, capable people, just by and large just, they are.
What they need to do their job is good information. Most importantly, whenever you’re doing something like this that is new and different, you really need to know what you do know and what you don’t know, and then you can develop a plan for managing around what you don’t know.
Kudos to Inga for doing this. It’s very important work given where we are with our business and what we’re being asked to do.
Michael: Hydrogen isn’t a new fuel. We’ve been using hydrogen as a fuel since the beginning of the space program. It’s not an unknown fuel. It’s just new for us. It’s just what did the pipeliners need to know in order to become comfortable with this fuel?
Russel: There are people out there that have that knowledge and expertise and experience over many years of operations that can really talk to this in depth, but there’s a very few of them just because of, it’s pretty small amount of mileage with hydrogen.
Hydrogen has been around a long time. It’s used daily in many different kinds of operations and processes. Yeah it’s interesting. That’s for sure. Thank you so much for taking your time. I know you’ve been going around and talking to a lot of conferences to share this message and hopefully, we helped get the message out.
Michael: I appreciate it. Really I love the program. Wish you all the success with it. I’m thrilled to be here as an old pipeliner.
Russel: All right. Thanks, Mike. Very glad to have you.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Mike. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit PipelinePodcastNetwork.com/Win and enter in the drawing.
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Transcription by CastingWords