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Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Communications

Pipeline Safety Connects Us All


Storage and delivery can add significant costs and energy inefficiencies to the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

Hydrogen Storage - Photo Courtesy of DOE

Like other alternative fuels, hydrogen must be transported from the point of production to the point of use. It also must be safely compressed, stored and dispensed at refueling stations or stationary power facilities. Due to its relatively low volumetric energy density, transportation, storage and final delivery to the point of use can represent significant costs and energy inefficiencies associated with using hydrogen as an energy carrier.

Hydrogen Pipelines - Fast Facts

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has regulated hydrogen pipelines since 1970 via 49 CFR Part 192, Transportation Of Natural And Other Gas By Pipeline: Minimum Federal Safety Standards
  • Approximately 700 miles of hydrogen pipelines are currently under PHMSA regulatory jurisdiction.
  • Gas pipeline integrity management requirements were added in 2003.
  • PHMSA’s research and development (R&D) focus is mainly on addressing hydrogen effects on steel pipelines.
  • PHMSA is participating with the DOT, Research and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and others towards establishing a National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap

A Hydrogen Economy

PHMSA has an important role in enabling a transition to a “hydrogen economy” in the United States. Numerous technical, cost and institutional challenges must be met if hydrogen is to significantly contribute to the nation’s energy requirements. Government agencies, many large and small private companies, and other organizations are making large investments with the intention of addressing these challenges. These investments are being made in the context of scenarios that hydrogen could be a competitive energy carrier with a growing share of major energy markets by the year 2020 or shortly thereafter.

Policy Gaps

Here are just some of many basic policy decisions required before a hydrogen economy can be realized:

  • Where will hydrogen be produced?
  • Where will it be consumed?
  • Will we need more transmission lines or distribution lines to transport it?
  • Can and will the current natural gas pipeline infrastructure be used?
  • How would a new hydrogen pipeline network be permitted?

Initial Focus

To enable the introduction of hydrogen as an energy carrier, a key initial focus of PHMSA is on research challenges for hydrogen delivery through local distribution infrastructure for refueling stations and stationary power sites. In a parallel effort, the DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is conducting R&D to improve the reliability and lower the cost of hydrogen compression and to reduce the cost and footprint of hydrogen storage.

Delivery Infrastructure

PHMSA is working with EERE to lower the cost and energy use of the hydrogen delivery infrastructure. This includes: developing improved, lower cost materials for pipelines; breakthrough approaches to hydrogen liquefaction; lighter weight and stronger materials and structures for high pressure hydrogen storage and transport; and novel low-pressure solid and liquid carrier systems for hydrogen delivery and storage.

Barriers to a Hydrogen Economy

Hydrogen fueled car - Photo Courtesy of DOE

Having adequate codes and standards for all aspects of a “hydrogen economy” is a major institutional barrier to deploying hydrogen. Enabling a hydrogen economy will require new consumer products, new model building codes and equipment and other technical standards. These will require approval from various federal, state, and local government agencies. The Federal Government is working with standards organizations to identify those codes and standards, to facilitate the development of such standards, and to support publicly available research and certification investigations that are necessary to develop a basis for such codes and standards.

  • Permitting Guides – Standardized procedures for permitting hydrogen technologies and systems are not yet well established. As a first step, the Federal Government sponsored the development of a new guide designed to help regulators sort through the multitude of codes and standards that apply when permitting hydrogen facilities. The Regulators' Guide to Permitting Hydrogen Technologies was developed through a collaborative effort involving the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Code Council (ICC), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It provides basic information about hydrogen's use as a fuel, information on the regulatory process and relevant codes and standards for stationary fuel cell technologies for commercial buildings and hydrogen motor fuel dispensing facilities.

The public has a large stake in the uninterrupted movement of commodities throughout the nation. As the hydrogen economy moves from concept to reality, and the public grows to depend on hydrogen availability to meet significant power and/or transportation energy demands, the ability to safely and reliably transport and store larger quantities of hydrogen will become increasingly important. Where hydrogen is made will drive the required pipeline infrastructure configuration. Currently there are less than 1,000 miles of hydrogen-supplying pipeline, almost all of which serves industrial demand and through which hydrogen is transported at constant, relatively low pressure. Confidence in the design, materials of construction, and performance of hydrogen pipelines must be assured as the hydrogen transportation system grows. This includes the ability of the hydrogen infrastructure to withstand both natural and man-made risks, which is a major PHMSA interest area.

Infrastructure and related equipment for the hydrogen economy will be funded, designed and built primarily by the private sector. Industry executives and investors make commercialization decisions once they are convinced that the economic benefits are sufficiently high, and that economic, technical and safety risks are sufficiently low. PHMSA’s hydrogen-related expenditures, particularly for research and development, are expected to be small relative to those made by other organizations, both government and private. In view of sizable hydrogen investments being made by others, PHMSA will need to focus on supporting activities to ensure that hydrogen is transported safely. This will include:

  • A clear technical focus regarding the safety implications of infrastructure materials, designs and systems
  • Preparation to address any regulatory barriers towards a hydrogen economy
  • Research in support of additional industry consensus standards
  • Efforts to educate and prepare emergency responders

The following research, development and testing of current materials, engineering designs and systems, and evaluation activities are required to support industry standards and related PHMSA regulations for the transport of hydrogen by pipeline.

  • Investigate the correlations among pressure, temperature and loss of mechanical properties for pipelines used to transport hydrogen. Loss of mechanical properties due to pressure and temperature interactions can lead to failure. Research and testing are needed to provide more definitive guidance for codes and standards developers.
  • Development of improved knowledge base and understanding related to transport of compressed hydrogen at pressures above 2,500 psi. This must include the development of improved knowledge base and understanding related to transport of liquefied hydrogen and effects of hydrogen purity.
  • Investigate and validate the loss of fatigue resistance and impact strength in pipelines. Research is needed on fatigue crack growth.
  • Research and testing to improve understanding of the entire pipeline system using high strength steels to enhance performance in a hydrogen environment.
  • Assessment to understand the effects of hydrogen on pipelines currently in use, such as those now used for transporting oil and natural gas.

PHMSA’s hydrogen research to date has focused on the well known hydrogen effects from normal hydrocarbon pipeline operations. Future research is planned in addressing hydrogen economy issues, but mainly in support of industry consensus standards. Follow this link and type the word hydrogen under "Project Search" to find out More...

In 2006 the DOT, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) funded a study entitled “Hydrogen Infrastructure Safety Technical Assessment and Research Results Gap Analysis”. The study report is available online. Not all gaps identified in the report fit within PHMSA’s mission. PHMSA considers that future hydrogen research should be coordinated with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) since they are crafting a new piping standard to address hydrogen transportation issues.

PHMSA Related Research & Development

  1. Performance Evaluation of High-Strength Steel Pipelines for High-Pressure Gaseous Hydrogen Transportation
  2. Cost-Effective Techniques for Weld Property Measurement and Technologies for Improving Weld HE and IGSCC Resistance for Alternative Fuel Pipelines
  3. Effect of Microstructure of Pipeline Steels on Ductility and Fatigue Properties in High Pressure Hydrogen Atmosphere

Related Links

Explore the following links to learn more about hydrogen fueling stations and related codes and standards.