Utilization of the existing natural gas network as a catalyst for the emerging hydrogen energy market
Across Europe exists a well developed transport and distribution network for natural gas, delivering the gas from its sources to homes or businesses. Even buffer storages for demand fluctuations are in use. It will take time and huge investments to build a comparable infrastructure for hydrogen.
Only when hydrogen will be used on a larger scale, however, these efforts will pay off. On the other hand, little use of hydrogen applications can be expected without a sufficient infrastructure. To cut the Gordian Knot, the existing natural gas pipelines could be employed as a means to transport hydrogen. At the other end of the pipeline, the hydrogen-natural gas mixture can either be consumed directly or the hydrogen is separated for single use.
What sounds easy at first glance poses a great deal of technical questions: Which pipeline material is suitable for what kind a hydrogen-natural gas mixture? Which hydrogen concentrations are possible without shortening the pipeline's steel or plastic lifetime? Which techniques are available for the separation of the gases and how do they need to be further developed to meet the cost targets? In which way do we need to alter the end users' applications, such as boilers in residential houses, if at all?
NaturalHy tackled these challenges in an integrated way.
PLANET was a partner in the work package that carried out the comparative evaluation of today's and future supply systems in regard to the economy, society and environment. We contributed significantly to the environmental assessment, relying on the experiences we had gathered in a previous study on hydrogen supply pathways.
In a first step, literature was reviewed to avoid redundancy and mismatches with other studies. Key findings of this review have been published on www.naturalhy.net.
Together with the other project partners, including major gas suppliers, scenarios on different time-scales were developed, one for the transformation phase with hydrogen-natural mixtures and one for a fully developed hydrogen energy market. Both of them includes a number of pathways for the supply with and the use of hydrogen as an energy vector.
Several indicators can be used for the comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of individual supply pathways. Under NaturalHy, the consumption of primary energy and emissions of greenhouse gases, but also the effects on the job market were considered. We tried to enable decision makers to understand the various available options with their consequences and, therefore, to appraise the effects of decisions before being made.
For the environmental assement we complied with international standards laid down in the ISO 14040 series. All partners attached great importance to transparency of the used data in order to enable external experts to verify the results.