Understanding the details of hydrogen use and distribution

As Australia prepares for future fuels including hydrogen, Future Fuels CRC researches the details that will make this transition a success.

Across the Australian industry’s research programs there are many research projects focussed on unlocking the specific details that will make future fuels a reality.

Flame luminosity

Applications of hydrogen that involve combustion need to consider flame visibility. Being able to visually assess a flame has implications for operations and safety in any industrial, commercial or residential application. A pure hydrogen flame produces less visible light than a natural gas flame, yet in practice they are not invisible and salts and dust in the air often give the flame an orange colour. Our research is now identifying the limiting conditions which influence hydrogen flame visibility under real-world conditions, and to what extent the environmental aspects affect this visibility. This research is finding the variables that impact flame colour and which combination of variables leads to the best outcome for flame colour for aesthetic and safety purposes.

Ammonia transmission

Ammonia has great potential as a renewable energy carrier and fertiliser both within Australia and for export. This means we could soon see ammonia transmission pipelines in Australia, rather than the current ones that exist within industrial facilities. However, there is a lack of compiled data on risks and consequences for cross-country ammonia pipelines. Our research team is now reviewing ammonia toxicity and dispersion behaviour and how this relates it to acceptable limits for human and environmental exposure. The project team are reviewing regulations and legislation for the design of ammonia pipelines to prevent leaks and ruptures and minimise consequences using effective mitigation strategies. Research has a huge role to play in the reduction of risk for this new industry, helping to define the vital details such as location relative to population, isolation valve spacing and automation, leak detection requirements and emergency response processes.

Squeeze off of plastic pipes

Plastic distribution networks could have a major role to play in the future distribution of hydrogen. In plastics networks squeezing the pipe to temporarily close it is a routine operation, but the current use of re-rounding clamps to extend the lifetime of a pipe with a squeeze off is not completely understood. The mechanism by which the clamp extends the life is not well understood nor is the extension of life the clamp provides. Certain variables including the age of the pipe and the type of clamp need to be better understood. Deakin University’s research team is now assessing available clamp methods and associated life expectancy to help industry better understand this issue in detail.

All about safety

It is vital we carry forward the gas industry’s positive safety culture into the future and apply it to hydrogen and future fuels. The RMIT research team have been working to evaluate different professional learning experiences for safety. They are already holding training workshops with pipeline engineers from March to May 2025 that use a serious game called Planet Pipeline to put pipeline engineers into real-life situations to develop their decision-making skills. Engineers will play the serious game in small groups with a debrief and replays encouraged to test alternative outcomes.

The game covers three scenarios:

Making design and operating choices to manage the threat of third-party damage to a pipeline.

Make design choices regarding floods and work with a landowner who doesn’t want a pipeline running through their agricultural land.

Exploring decisions on defects in an operational pipeline that requires a welded repair.

The results from these workshops will inform professional learning modules that the APGA plan to deliver to develop excellence in engineering professional practice.

All of these research projects are available to our industry participants on our website at futurefuelscrc.com along with our webinars and events, and Future Fuels CRC looks forward to sharing more of our research to enable hydrogen and biomethane in Australia.

This article featured in the May edition of The Australian Pipeliner. 

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