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Exploring the repurposing of pipeline infrastructure

Editorial Comment

T. CAMPBELL, Managing Editor

Hydrogen (H2) transportation and storage capabilities will be essential to building a H2 economy. Any H2 produced must be transported to end users, requiring infrastructure (e.g., pipelines), or the production facilities must be located near the final destination. This can be complicated, considering green H2 production requires renewable energy resources that may not be in the most accessible areas. However, the farther the transport distance, the higher the cost. Seaborne transportation may be the least expensive option for distances of more than 2,000 kilometer (km)−2,500 km, as it typically is with natural gas. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 1.2 MM km of natural gas transmission pipelines have been installed worldwide, and approximately another 200,000 km are under construction or in pre-construction development.1 This infrastructure holds the potential to be repurposed for H2 transport. 

An example of a complex pipeline system ripe for the interim H2 transportation needs is that of the U.S. According to Gulf Energy Information’s Global Energy Infrastructure (GEI) database, some 322 U.S. gas pipeline projects are in various stages of development. Of the 322, 277 are operating, 21 are planned, six are under construction and 18 are non-operational. An analysis by the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) states that in 2019, this natural gas transportation network delivered approximately 30.5 Tft3 of natural gas to about 76.9 MM customers across multiple sectors.2 This network is more than enough to handle current H2 production quantities. However, this is not a simple plug-in solution, and adjustments must be made. The H2 must be compressed to the pipeline's operating pressure, requiring compressor stations to be scattered throughout the pipeline systems. 

Regional outlook. This issue of H2Tech will focus on worldwide developments and regional potential for a H2 economy. According to the NETL analysis, the Appalachian region in the U.S. is well positioned to become a production hub for H2 from natural gas, producing nearly 4.41 Bft3d more than consumed, the region has ample natural gas production and reserves to produce fossil-derived H2 with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to meet industrial energy demands now being met by natural gas.2 In Beijing, China, a H2 pipeline more than 400 km long is being built to increase the efficiency of transferring clean fuels from the west to east. In the first phase, the pipeline is expected to handle about 100,000 tpy of H2, with the potential to increase the capacity to 500,000 tpy. According to the GEI database, Europe has 3,061 gas pipeline projects in various phases, Africa has 433, the Middle East has 157 and Central/South America has 359. Repurposing this infrastructure could prove to be a promising endeavor for the global H2 economy.H2T


1 IEA, “Energy technology perspective 2023,” January 2023, online: 

2 NETL, “Appalachian hydrogen infrastructure analysis,” March 2022, online:


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