During this current period of change driven by ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives, hydrogen blending continues to be a major topic of discussion amongst gas pipeline operators. Specific to our customers, we have to ask the question: how will measurement be affected by the push for hydrogen blends flowing through pipelines?
To find the answer, we first have to examine the state of the industry. 2022 has brought change to our industry at a breakneck pace. We are being challenged to adopt new technologies – both in the office and in the field. Mergers and acquisitions have rocked companies, both small and large, often bringing foreign investors and ideas to our U.S. operations.
As board rooms struggle to re-make energy companies in the face of ESG pressure, the “hydrogen express” seems poised to come barreling down the tracks. All of this is happening with engineering and operations groups at historically lean staffing levels. Meanwhile, increasingly critical operating tasks are being turned over to service companies and contractors.
This has created a significant challenge in balancing corporate-driven initiatives with the measurement needs of operators.
Hydrogen Blending Requires a Careful Balance
While mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are nothing new to the oil and gas industry, and the industry has faced a constant need to embrace new technology, the real unknown is the shifting ESG pressure placed on the board room. And, what is the pathway to prepare to measure hydrogen blends flowing through pipelines that satisfy difficult timelines introduced by executives?
The reality is that hydrogen as a fuel is not new, but the concept of intentionally blending hydrogen into our existing natural gas pipelines and distribution systems is largely uncharted territory in the U.S. Many in our industry think hydrogen blending will happen sooner, instead of later. It’s our job to be ready, regardless of whether it’s next quarter, next year, or the next decade.
To understand where we are as an industry and where we’re going, we need to back up and consider the previous challenge with RNG (Renewable Natural Gas), which led the “green energy push,” even if unintentionally.
We are several decades into the recovery of landfill gas to reduce emissions of hazardous gasses. Despite this history, the sudden push for pipelines and Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) to accept RNG from various sources into their natural gas lines has caught many companies ill-prepared, both on the technology and the commercial terms fronts.
To ensure that we are better prepared for hydrogen blending, we need to examine the lessons learned from dismissing RNG and repeatedly kicking the can down the road.
Use Past Experience to Simplify the Complexity of Hydrogen
Make no mistake about it. Identifying and addressing measurement issues with hydrogen blending will be a complex process. But, if we learn from what happened with RNG, then we will be better prepared for hydrogen.
1. Understand your equipment. Take a look at how equipment, technology, and assets were affected by the transition to RNG.
- What were the anticipated challenges?
- What issues were not anticipated that had to be dealt with on the fly?
- What were the results of addressing expected and unexpected challenges?
Look at the full picture of how your operation handled RNG. Then, find similarities that could affect hydrogen blends flowing through your systems so that you can proactively bring everyone together to identify solutions.
2. Capture measurement gaps. RNG is simple compared to hydrogen challenges the industry will face. Some areas we must look at include:
- If and how your tariffs, contacts, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) address hydrogen.
- The compatibility of your field measurement equipment to handle the new product that will be flowing through the pipe.
- The capabilities of your existing software systems to collect and process new measurement data.
- Are field personnel properly trained on how to use equipment and consistently generate accurate measurements under different circumstances?
- Does your back-office team understand how to interface with measurement systems to receive data and run reports?
3. Review alignment with contracts/tariffs. Currently, most contracts and tariffs do not mention hydrogen. Or, if hydrogen is mentioned, it’s treated like a contaminant. This will eventually change over time.
Your company needs to be prepared to adapt measurement practices and company policies to align with future changes to contracts, tariffs, regulations, and industry standards when standards are introduced.
GCI Can Help Your Operation Prepare for Change
Help your operation prepare to satisfy ESG requirements while maintaining a strong measurement posture. Gas Certification Institute (GCI) can help in a variety of ways. Consider our available resources and measurement consulting support.
– Download our free whitepaper, “Natural Gas Measurement Considerations in the Hydrogen Economy.” Learn more about how to prepare for the hydrogen economy transition.
– Listen to Episode #9 of the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast. In this episode, Jamie Marsden of Emerson Process Management discusses the key lessons learned from using gas chromatography in the field with RNG. Gain valuable insights that will help your operation prepare for hydrogen.
– Schedule a gap analysis with our subject matter experts (SMEs). We can provide you with a gap analysis of your measurement operations. And, as part of the gap analysis, we can help you understand whether contracts, tariffs, and your SOPs need to be updated to reflect the forthcoming hydrogen economy.
To schedule a gap analysis with our team, contact GCI today. We would appreciate hearing from you so that we can support your operation with measurement activity related to hydrogen blending.