Hydrogen network

Turning old into new: making natural gas pipelines fit for hydrogen

We all do it: we renovate houses, repair cars or use existing jars to make grandma's jam. Refurbishing old things makes sense. It doesn't always have to be something new and is good for the environment and your wallet. We will do the same with the hydrogen network. We want to continue using the existing natural gas pipelines and transport hydrogen through them. That saves time and money.

Most of the hydrogen network is already in the ground

Around 60 percent of the hydrogen core network, as presented in mid-November by Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck together with FNB Gas e.V., is based on existing pipelines. Today these still transport natural gas, in future they will transport climate-friendly hydrogen. The advantages are obvious: the pipes are already in the ground; they have been approved and have already proven their operational safety. There is no need for lengthy approval procedures or new construction sites. The costs are around a fifth of those of a new build and, of course, the changeover is much quicker. We can do it in two years. A new building would take at least five years, especially as a completely new approval procedure would have to be carried out.

But of course, there are still some steps that need to be taken to convert a pipeline from natural gas to hydrogen. We have already started to do this in practice. In October, we started the first conversion of a long-distance pipeline between Emsbüren in Lower Saxony and Legden in North Rhine-Westphalia. Today we would like to explain the necessary steps in more detail in the OGE Policy Impulse.

Natural gas out, hydrogen in: What we are doing to make old pipelines fit for the future

When a pipeline has to be converted, the first step is to pump the natural gas out of the relevant section. We have illustrated this for you using the example mentioned above:

We use mobile compressors to pump the natural gas into other sections of the pipeline. This prevents the natural gas from being released into the air. In Emsbüren, we were able to save 4,000 tons of CO2 in this way. That's how much a car consumes when it drives around the world 500 times.

Once the natural gas has been pumped out, the pipeline sections are first physically disconnected from the natural gas network. Then adjustments are made to stations and the pipeline technology, for example to various fittings. Individual stations are rebuilt, while others along the pipeline are dismantled. Pressure tests are also required to obtain approval for the transportation of hydrogen.

And then the hydrogen transportation can begin.

Old has become new.
Or: A breath of fresh air in familiar sails.