Hydrogen will increasingly be present in our gas pipelines and distribution networks in the coming years. As nations seek to reduce carbon emissions to net zero, hydrogen will be a critical medium to store and transport energy harvested by renewable and other sources. The pipeline and energy industry’s focus has been directed to the challenges that hydrogen, either blended with methane or transported in its pure form, will pose to existing infrastructure and production processes.
To optimize the useful life span of any pipeline system and prevent integrity failures, the ability to introduce and remove mechanical, intelligent or isolation pigs rapidly and safely is of great importance. The pigging industry is actively engaged in overcoming technical challenges and identifying suitable advances in pig design and material selection to ensure necessary operations can continue in the presence of hydrogen.
While responses to the technical challenges are timely and necessary, as pipeliners we must also make sure that the safety of our operational teams is given the same focus. In any pigging operation, but particularly in gas lines, the launching and receiving of pigs is the most safety critical aspect. The properties of hydrogen exacerbate these risks significantly due to the molecule size, increased flammability range in the presence of air and material property degradation.
This paper highlights the elevated risk profile that hydrogen poses during the launching and receiving process, looks to lessons learned from other industries that work with hydrogen and identifies the mitigation actions operating teams should be made aware of through training with revised worksite procedures and risk assessments.