With the European Union aiming to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050, new and greener fuels are entering the energy market. Some, such as green hydrogen, are presenting unique challenges for the energy transportation sector. ArcelorMittal is actively working with customers, researchers, and regulators to define new steel grades and testing methodologies which will allow green energy to be distributed across the EU. These efforts have already led to the delivery of pipes for a new high-pressure hydrogen pipeline which stretches almost 450 kilometres across Italy. But with demand for clean energy growing daily, there is much more work to be done.
The availability of hydrogen made using renewable energy (known as green hydrogen) – and its transport – are integral to European efforts to create a carbon-neutral circular economy. But hydrogen has some unique safety considerations.
Unlike existing fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen has a very small atom. The size of the particle makes it easier for the hydrogen atoms to penetrate the steel and alter its characteristics. Over time the steel can lose its ability to withstand fractures.
Green energy is generated using renewable energy before being transported to the consumer
To counter this issue, international organisations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) have defined standards which limit the operating pressure of hydrogen pipelines. In the ASME’s case, they have reduced the recommended operating pressure of hydrogen pipelines to 20 percent of the pressure for natural gas. That means less hydrogen – and thus less energy – can be transported.
“Defining a new standard for hydrogen transport pipes is a key priority for the EU and the energy sector,” says Olivier Brun, Portfolio Director for Industry at ArcelorMittal Global R&D. “That will enable operators to use their pipelines at full capacity and go a long way to meeting the need for this remarkable fuel.”
To help further these efforts, ArcelorMittal is a part of the European Union’s Clean Hydrogen Alliance. We are also an active member of Horizon Europe – the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation into green energy.
Hydrogen atoms are extremely small, posing new challenges for transportation pipelines
ArcelorMittal steels are already being used in Europe’s first certified hydrogen pipeline – a 450 km network developed by SNAM to supply Italy with hydrogen. Made by Corinth Pipeworks (CPW), the pipes utilise ArcelorMittal’s L415ME steel grade and have been certified against the requirements of the ASME B31.12 Option B standard.
“For this project we delivered a robust new steel which will resist embrittlement and transport hydrogen gas safely throughout Europe,” explains Frederic Bouchaud, ArcelorMittal account manager for oil and gas pipelines. “The grade is a high-quality steel with low carbon content, excellent cleanliness, a homogenous microstructure, and low levels of sulfur and phosphorous. It is also available in very large widths.”
The steel for the pipes was produced by ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products at its mills in Fos-sur-Mer (France) and Bremen (Germany). After forming by CPW, the pipes were laboratory tested at maximum pressure and 100 percent hydrogen. The testing has proved the safety of steel and will allow the pipeline to operate at around 70 percent of capacity, significantly above the standard available today.
Nearly all modes of transport can be adapted to utilise green hydrogen
Two years ago, ArcelorMittal began to research how our steels for natural gas pipelines behave with hydrogen. “We have also made significant efforts to develop our inhouse knowledge of hydrogen transport,” says Nuria Sanchez Mourino, project leader at ArcelorMittal Global R&D. “Our methodology and testing equipment have enabled us to support CPW in the development of the new pipes for the SNAM hydrogen network. And we will continue to invest in both our know-how and our tools.”
The ArcelorMittal teams are actively looking for customers who we can work with to develop our steel offer for the transport of hydrogen and other gases such as carbon dioxide. “Bring us your project and we will help you to test – and improve – the grades you are using!” says Frederic Bouchaud.
New electricity transportation towers are being developed to maximise the amount of wind, solar, and wave energy that makes it to consumers. The new towers utilise advanced high strength steel grades (AHSS) produced by ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products. These grades are also utilised in wind towers and offer significantly improved resistance to wind loads.
ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products has recently supplied AHSS grades to a leading pioneer in the development of new power tower designs.
ArcelorMittal’s client is developing robust electricity transport towers which utilise Amstrong® advanced high strength steels
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is another gas which presents unique safety challenges during transportation. The gas has many applications in industry, food and beverage production, and chemical processes. There is also an increasing need to capture, transport, and sequester CO2 to limit carbon emissions from industry.
Transporting CO2 presents its own unique challenges. The temperature of the gas can rapidly change due to alterations in the pressure along a pipeline. For example, a failure in a pipe can lead to a sudden and dramatic fall in temperature which will solidify the CO2. The rapid change in temperature can lead to embrittlement and cracking of the steel.
Many of ArcelorMittal’s existing AHSS grades can be used to create CO2 pipelines with a high level of safety. But to increase capacity and safety, ArcelorMittal is working with customers to develop new steels and steel solutions for CO2 transportation. These include new grades and alternative pipe designs which use sleeves to limit the risk of failure.
Corona Borealis Studio, Scharfsinn, XONIX/ shutterstock.com