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Distributing Hydrogen through Natural Gas Pipelines

In November of 2011, I had talked about the German Energy Group E. ON storing hydrogen inside of natural gas pipelines. The idea was that wind turbines would electrolyze water and 5 – 15 percent hydrogen could be stored and moved through current natural gas pipelines for various uses for home, business and transportation.

The U. S. Department of Energy is now reviewing the potential of blending hydrogen within the already established U. S. natural gas pipeline.

And according to the U. S. DOE, neither the natural gas pipeline nor blending hydrogen is new, “The U.S. natural gas pipeline system has evolved from local manufactured gas networks serving municipalities in the mid-1800s to a vast network of interconnected pipeline systems comprising 2.44 million miles of pipe, 400 underground storage facilities, and 1,400 compressor stations. Natural gas accounted for 24.6 quads of U.S. energy consumption in 2010, roughly 25% of total energy consumed. Moreover, recent increased domestic production rates suggest that the existing natural gas system will continue to provide relatively clean and domestic energy for some time, especially with increased adoption of energy efficiency measures (EIA 2012). Given these characteristics, hydrogen blending could become a widespread, long-term, and integral practice to supplement a critical domestic energy infrastructure …

“… Though the concept of blending hydrogen with natural gas is not new (IGT 1972), the rapid growth in installed wind power capacity and interest in the near-term market readiness of FCEVs has made blending a more tangible consideration within several stakeholder activities (Florisson 2012; GM 2010), including recent agreements on “Power-to-Gas” initiatives with Hydrogenics (2012a; 2012b). Delivering blends of hydrogen and methane (the primary component of naturalgas) by pipeline also has a long history, dating back to the origins of today’s natural gas system when manufactured gas produced from coal was first piped during the Gaslight era to streetlamps, commercial buildings, and households in the early and
mid-1800s. The manufactured gas products of the time, also referred to as town gas or water gas, typically contained 30% – 50% hydrogen, and could be produced from pitch, whale oil, coal or petroleum products (Castaneda 1999; Tarr 2004; Melaina 2012). The use of manufactured gas persisted in the United States into the early 1950s, when the last manufactured gas plant in New York was shut down and natural gas had displaced all major U.S. manufactured gas production facilities. In some urban areas, such as Honolulu, Hawaii, manufactured gas continues to be delivered with significant hydrogen blends and is used in heating and lighting applications as an economic alternative to natural gas (TGC 2012; GM 2010).”

So, for the naysayers who keep talking about the building of a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure as being “impossible” well it is possible. And not only possible, but feasible. Germany is already doing it. The U. S. DOE has outlined what it will take to do it. Now, we all need to pull together and as Nike says, “Just do it.”

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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