Partnership evaluates hydrogen transport in natural gas systems

The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Peoples Gas, an Essential Utilities company providing natural gas service in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky, have entered into a research partnership to study the potential to safely and securely transport hydrogen through existing natural gas systems.

Quest Integrity (Photo: Quest Integrity)

While the Appalachian Basin offers abundant natural gas reserves that could be leveraged in the development and commercialization of hydrogen, the fuel’s unique physical and chemical characteristics require answers to technical questions, such as its effects on pipeline materials, to determine whether natural gas utilities can safely and effectively transport it through existing infrastructure.

As such, engineers at Peoples and Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering will begin by conducting benchmarking and research of existing information and data related to the distribution of hydrogen, focusing on technical issues associated with the use of natural gas pipelines to transport hydrogen or a hydrogen/natural gas blend. Following the research phase, the organizations expect to work together on a pilot project to test the impacts of hydrogen on Peoples’ natural gas distribution infrastructure.

“Hydrogen has the potential to transform the way we heat our homes and power our businesses, using the existing natural gas distribution system,” said Mike Huwar, president of Peoples. “Pitt and the Swanson School have the expertise we need to test and study its feasibility as a transformative energy resource.”

Brian Gleeson, the Harry S. Tack Professor and Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS), and Dr. Doug Konitzer, adjunct professor in the department, will lead the project. Both are metallurgists with expertise in materials science and engineering.

“Although much progress has been made over the past decades, further research and testing are needed for the safe and affordable implementation of carbon-neutral hydrogen technologies,” Gleeson said. “We are very excited to work with the technical personnel at Peoples Gas on this highly relevant project.”

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