The hydrogen economy is coming for gas pipelines. The question is how will operators develop and implement measurement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for hydrogen blended gas?
During the 2022 AGA Operations Conference & Spring Committee Meetings on May 5 in New Orleans, GCI General Manager Weldon Wright presented on the topic of natural gas measurement considerations in a hydrogen economy.
The AGA 2022 presentation focused on the major measurement challenge that pipeline operators and Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) will face with hydrogen blended gas: project management.
Contrary to popular belief, the main challenge is not new measurement and analytical technology, as much of that work has already been done. Rather, the primary measurement challenge is aligning all those technical details in preparation for that first monthly close with merchantable levels of hydrogen flowing through your pipelines. Some key areas to consider include the following:
- Gap Analysis of existing hardware, software, and business processes.
- Understanding the full scope of changes required.
- Tracking individual items.
- Management of Change (MoC) to assure it happens efficiently and safely.
While we have more questions than answers at this stage of the game, measurement leaders should still take an active role in preparing your operation for the measurement impact of hydrogen on your system.
AGA 2022 Message: Don’t Wait to Take Action
Management is currently thinking through the overall impact of RNG and hydrogen on operations. They’re thinking about how to support ESG initiatives that are targeting zero-carbon emissions. It’s measurement’s job to be ready for those initiatives, making sure RNG and hydrogen are measured and reported accurately.
Don’t wait for management to start asking you questions when measurement suddenly becomes the holdup. Be prepared!
Sure, there are more questions than answers at this stage, but Weldon’s message during the AGA 2022 presentation was to start with an assessment. Knowing and understanding your starting point is the first step in preparing measurement operations for change.
By performing an assessment of your company’s readiness state for measurement in the hydrogen economy, you can get ahead of the changing landscape of the natural gas industry to align with ESG initiatives and support the business.
What Questions Do You Need to Ask About Measurement?
Consider these areas where you start poking around to determine where there are existing gaps in your measurement operations:
- Contracts – Tariffs – Industry Standards
- Measurement Equipment
- Standard Operating Procedures & Training
- Field Operations
- Polling/Data Collection
- SCADA/Pipeline Control
- Measurement Systems
Then, you need to start asking some very detailed questions about each of these areas to help you understand where to start taking action.
Contracts – Tariffs – Industry Standards
Currently, there is no industry standard for hydrogen in natural gas pipelines. There is a lot of work to be done in this area across the industry, specifically a systematic review of current standards. More than a few changes are expected, but we do not know what those will be yet. In the interim, you can get ahead by reviewing your current state.
- What do your current tariffs or contracts say about hydrogen?
- Do the definitions of MMBTUs include the contributions from hydrogen?
- How do quality specifications need to be altered?
Do you have a full inventory of field equipment? And, for each piece of field equipment, can you answer these questions…
- Can the equipment be used as-is?
- Will firmware/software changes be needed?
- Will hardware updates be required?
- Will replacement be required?
- If replacement is required, what systems will be impacted?
- What is the lead time?
- What is the labor required?
SOPs and Training
Do your SOP manuals need to be revised? Perhaps the manuals need to be updated to reflect each of these areas:
- New safety procedures.
- Contractual and tariff changes associated with hydrogen.
- New equipment types.
- New device configuration standards.
- New calibration and/or test procedures.
Then, with new procedures and equipment comes new training. Your training should coincide with new equipment and procedures being brought online. Do you need to develop new training programs for measurement personnel?
- Do your field measurement software tools (e.g. gas flow calculators and calibration software) need to be updated to capture hydrogen flowing through pipe?
- Do your online and portable gas chromatographs need to be upgraded to analyze hydrogen and new calibration gas? Will new carrier gas be needed?
- Are you prepared for the cost impact of these changes?
To report hydrogen to your existing measurement system, historical configurations in meters and RTUs will need to be updated.
- You will need to reconfigure the polling system to poll devices for the new data.
- The polling database will need to be updated to include hydrogen.
- The polling system will need to be reconfigured to export new value(s) to the downstream measurement software system.
To add hydrogen to the monitored and actioned items for gas control, the SCADA HMIs will likely need to be updated to display the proper information.
- New alarm setpoints may be needed.
- Do you need to perform new alarm rationalizations?
- Training will need to be provided for controllers.
- What about the point-to-point validations needed for every impacted site?
There are many different aspects of measurement systems that need to be investigated to ensure that your measurement team is prepared for the future operating reality.
- Do your physical properties tables need to be updated?
- What code changes will be needed as new industry standards are adopted?
- Do your component balances, recovery, and system efficiency calculations support hydrogen?
- Do you need to add third-party data imports for hydrogen?
- What reports need to be updated?
- How will exports to your downstream systems be impacted?
- Will customer-facing web portals need to be updated?
For many companies, the measurement system feeds near real-time data to scheduling and nominations systems. Even minor changes to electronic data exchange may be a big deal.
- Will you need to track and report hydrogen percentages in deliveries?
- Do you need to be prepared for minimums and penalties associated with hydrogen that traders and schedulers will need real-time access to?
An obvious change is that accounting will need access to the hydrogen percentage flowing through the pipe. But, there are some not-so-obvious challenges that need to be thought through:
- Does your accounting software need to be updated for new calculations and physical properties for hydrogen?
- Does the “green content” flowing through the pipe need to become a reported value?
- Does the settlement language in your tariffs and contracts need to be revised?
Work With GCI to Identify Your Starting Point
RNG has been around for quite some time, but companies are still struggling to adjust to RNG deliveries. Accounting for hydrogen will be the next major hurdle for operators.
As you can see, there are a lot of questions to ask. And, your plate is likely already full handling day-to-day measurement operations. That’s where we can help by stepping in to perform an initial gap analysis assessment.
Through our GCI Consulting services, our subject matter experts can perform a checklist review of your current measurement operations compared to where measurement is heading in the forthcoming hydrogen economy. We’ll provide you with the results of our findings and then help create a project management roadmap to close these gaps.
Your job is to be prepared for when hydrogen becomes a reality in your operation. We can help you get there. Contact GCI today to discuss a solution for your operation.
You can also send us a message through our contact form about how we can help. Our goal is to help you show management that you have a plan for measurement in the hydrogen economy before they even ask you the question.
– We also encourage you to download our new whitepaper associated with Weldon’s presentation from AGA 2022. This free resource will help you formulate the appropriate measurement response to the hydrogen economy to support your company.