The midstream industry is rushing into a new era. Energy is on the verge of a global shift towards more sustainable practices. The forthcoming changes are a function of consumer demand, technology advancements, recent legislation, and fundamental changes to the methods by which companies create shareholder value. ADV Integrity is currently supporting industry players in navigating this transition, including considering the factors outlined in this article that influence the safe and profitable operation of new fuel alternatives.
ESG: Your Score Matters
With the introduction of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, businesses must manage their ESG “scorecard” to attract capital. This is in addition to managing the current state of affairs with erratic oil price trends and a global pandemic. For companies in the energy industry, this “scorecard” is especially relevant to sustainability, decarbonization, and carbon sequestration activities.
Not only does ESG put pressure on the energy industry to undergo this major transition, but it also incentivizes companies from other industries to pursue more “green” practices. These practices will drive up demand for alternative energy sources and drive the transition to decarbonized alternatives for the oil and natural gas pipeline grid. Two highly-discussed alternatives include carbon dioxide and hydrogen, each with unique challenges that will force the industry to learn and adapt.
CO2: It’s Happening Now
There are currently between 5,000 to 10,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines in the United States—a fraction of what currently exists for oil and natural gas. However, the opportunity for growth in this area increased exponentially as the Biden administration included more than $12 billion for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in recently passed infrastructure legislation (1).
CCS is an integral component to emission-reduction technology. During capture, carbon is compressed and then transported via pipeline. Carbon dioxide is then injected underground for storage, but it can also be used for other end uses such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR), food and beverage manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and metal fabrication (2). The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that between 2.6 to 21 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide could be stored in the sequestration process (3), the equivalent of hundreds or even thousands of years of emissions at current levels in the United States (4).
Since 2001, 63 incidents related to CO2 pipeline failures were reported to the PHMSA Hazardous Liquid Incident database, with no reports of fatalities or injuries. However, an incident in early 2020 in Satartia, Mississippi resulted in numerous hospital visits from carbon dioxide poisoning (5).
Many of the incidents reported to the PHMSA database were related to failures of non-metallic sealing elements, such as non-metallic elastomer, grease, or packing rather than issues with the pipeline’s steel. Because non-metallic elements absorb CO2 and subsequently swell, non-metallic materials become susceptible to cracking or failure upon pressure release. Therefore, CO2 pipelines require strict criteria for non-metallic material selection.
Another major concern is long running fractures. Carbon dioxide is typically transported in a dense phase at pressures greater than 1,070 psi (73.8 bar) and 88 F (31.1 C). If a failure occurs, CO2 will have a pressure driving force for a much longer distance than methane in natural gas pipelines. Preventing long running fractures involves a fracture control program that assesses and monitors fracture toughness, pipeline dimensions, operating pressure, and may require the use of crack arrestors. Decreasing the operating pressure would reduce the risk of long running fractures but also decrease throughput—a potentially economically disadvantageous outcome.
Overall, carbon dioxide transportation, while posing its own unique set of challenges, is happening today, and with recent investments in CCS initiatives, it is posed to grow. Due to the challenges associated with it, engineered solutions will be required to find the appropriate operating conditions for CO2 transportation.
Hydrogen: Something to Watch
There are approximately 1,600 miles of hydrogen pipeline currently in the U.S. (6) Hydrogen is primarily transported blended with natural gas. In the United States, 3% blended hydrogen is typical. Above 5%, more research is necessary to understand material concerns.
The primary challenge with hydrogen is embrittlement and cracking as a result of hydrogen’s active electron migrating into the crystal structure of most metals. Because of the risk posed by hydrogen to traditional steel pipelines, non-metallic liners or pipes is a potential solution for converting pipelines for hydrogen. However, operators should know that the permeation of hydrogen though some elastomer seals and soft goods is higher than methane (natural gas). There are viable non-metallic options, but testing may be required to validate their efficacy as liners for converted pipelines.
The challenges posed by hydrogen make its potential application especially complex. However, with the demand for decarbonized alternatives to oil and natural gas, it will inevitably have its place in the energy infrastructure.
Applications of Non-Metallics
ADV Integrity has extensive experience with studying and testing applications of non-metallic and composite materials, including several Joint Industry Projects (JIPs) that bring together industry players to develop integrity management solutions.
In converting pipelines for both carbon dioxide or hydrogen transport, there is a need for testing and engineered analysis of non-metallic material applications. Without a doubt, more research is necessary to support operators as they make this shift towards carbon neutral alternatives and implement ESG initiatives.
Currently, ADV Integrity’s engineers are actively engaged with researching the implications of the energy transition and ESG to serve as a resource for the industry, including facilitating several joint industry projects (JIPs):
ADV Integrity is looking forward to continuing to serve operators as they explore the cutting edge of technology and innovation in the energy transition.
(1) Brady, Jeff. (2021, November 17). The infrastructure bill could boost the industry removing carbon dioxide from the air. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/11/17/1056646775/the-infrastructure-bill-could-boost-the-industry-removing-carbon-dioxide-from-
(2) United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017, January 19). Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration: Overview. EPA: 19 January 2017 Snapshot. https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange/carbon-dioxide-capture-and-sequestration-overview_.html.
(3) NACAP. (2015). The North American Carbon Storage Atlas. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and the Mexican Ministry of Energy (SENER). https://www.netl.doe.gov/sites/default/files/2018-10/ATLAS-V-2015.pdf
(4) United States Environment Protection Agency, 2017.
(5) Zegart, Dan. (2021, August 26). The Gassing of Satartia. Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/gassing-satartia-mississippi-co2-pipeline_n_60ddea9fe4b0ddef8b0ddc8f
(6) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. (n.d.) Hydrogen Pipelines. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-pipelines.
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