Hydrogen Transport by Pipeline

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Hydrogen can be effectively distributed by pipeline at a pressures of typically <100 bar. Pipelines provide a costs effective way of distributing hydrogen in large quantities over short distances and hence they are often found serving satellite customers who take hydrogen from a local central production source (e.g. refinery or chemical plant).

However, care has to be taken to choose the correct material for dedicated hydrogen pipelines and significant upgrading of the existing natural gas pipeline system would be required if it were to be used for pure hydrogen distribution. The ease of laying new pipeline for hydrogen distribution is dependant on the specific area - as the capital investment and time required for acquiring right-of-way access and overcoming routing difficulties will depend on the local environment.

State of the Art / Market / Research

There are a number of hydrogen pipeline systems that currently exist to serve the industrial market. These include systems in the North of Europe, (covering The Netherlands, Northern France and Belgium), Germany (Ruhr and Leipzig areas), UK (Teesside) and in North America (Gulf of Mexico, Texas-Louisiana, California). In all the pipelines total around 1500 km in Western Europe, with around 900 km in the USA. Smaller systems also exist in South Africa, Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia. Overall, these pipeline lengths are tiny when compared to the natural gas distribution pipeline system, which amounts to approximately 1,850,000 in EU25 and 1,750,000 in the USA.

For pipeline distribution to be considered for the wider distribution of hydrogen into energy and fuelling applications, one could consider developing new purpose built hydrogen pipeline or to consider the upgrading of existing natural gas pipelines.

Use of New Hydrogen Pipelines

Existing hydrogen pipelines tend to be constructed from low to medium strength steels carrying hydrogen at pressures <100 bar. The transport of gaseous hydrogen via existing pipelines is currently the lowest-cost option for delivering large volumes of hydrogen over short distance, however, the high initial capital costs of new pipeline construction, constitute a major barrier to expanding hydrogen pipeline delivery infrastructure for the emerging energy market - particularly while current demand for hydrogen is low.

Another key issue is determining the optimum pressure which would be required for the transmission of hydrogen via dedicated domestic distribution lines. Because of the lower energy density of hydrogen compared to natural gas, it has been calculated that to distribute comparable energy quantities, the pressure of the hydrogen would need to be in the range of 100-150 bar. This increase in pressure may have implications for the material which could be used in the pipeline construction. Research is therefore focused on overcoming concerns related to pipeline transmission at higher pressures, including the potential for hydrogen to embrittle the steel and welds used to fabricate the pipelines; the need to control hydrogen permeation and leaks; and the need for lower cost, more reliable, and more durable hydrogen compression technology.

Use of Existing Natural Gas Pipelines

One possibility for rapidly expanding the hydrogen delivery infrastructure is to adapt part of the natural gas delivery infrastructure to accommodate hydrogen. Converting natural gas pipelines to carry a blend of natural gas and hydrogen (up to about 20% hydrogen) may require only modest modifications to the pipeline; converting existing natural gas pipelines to deliver pure hydrogen may require more substantial modifications. Current research and analysis are examining both approaches.

Metrics Table

Technology Accessibility Compatibility with existing technologies Rating 0-4 3[1]
Number of Transportation providers Data no. 4[2]
Joint transportation with other fuels Rating 0-4 -
Global Environmental Impact
(to be coordinated with ECN)
GHG emissions associated with fuel transport Data gCO2 eq/kg fuel  
CO2 emissions associated with fuel transport Data gCO2/kg fuel  
Local Environmental Impact
(to be coordinated with ECN)
Air quality impact (consider NOx, PM, CO, NMHC) Rating 0-4  
Noise or perception of noise from transport systems (SPL, loudness,...) Data / Rating dB(A), sone  
Land use / damage to nature (e.g. pipelines) Rating 0-4  
Efficiency Transport leakage Data % (kg) loss / km  
Energy efficiency (e.g. truck energy consumption + leakage) Data %  
Capacity & Availability
(to be coordinated with ECN)
Measured capacity of distribution infrastructure Data kg fuel / year  
Lifetime of technology Data years  
(click here for more datails)
Capital investment for fuel transport facilitites Data €/capacity 560 €/m (400mm Offshore)
370 €/m (200mm Offshore)
200 €/m (400mm Onshore)[3]
Operational / maintenance costs Data €/year 2 % of capital investment/year[3]
Decommissioning Cost Data €/capacity N/A
Transportation Costs Data €/kg/km N/A
(to be coordinated with TNO)
No. of transport interruptions Data no. / year  
Severity of failure Rating 0-4  

Main Industrial Players

As explained in previous sections there is approximately 1500 km of existing hydrogen pipelines in Western Europe and 900 km in the USA. These systems are used to distribute hydrogen from central production facilities to local end users. They are often owned by major industrial gas companies as mentioned in Section 9.1. In some incidences, the pipeline infrastructure is owned by a third party.


  • Air Products
  • Castello, Tzimas, Moretto and Peteves
    Techno-economic Hydrogen Transmission and Distribution Systems in Europe in the Medium and Long Term
    Report EUR 21586EN, March 2005
  • Hydrogen 2003
    University of Glamorgan
  • US Department of Energy [1], [2]
  • High Growth Industrial Gases
    Spiritus Consulting


  1. Pipeline is a mature mode of distribution for the industrial market, but is limited to certain regions. There are certain technology and economic barriers to the development of new widespread pipelines systems for hydrogen energy applications or for upgrading of existing natural gas pipelines
  2. 'Four' refers to the major global industrial gas companies; Air Liquide, Linde Group (inc. BOC), Air Products and Praxair. The gas companies also utilise pipelines owned by third parties for hydrogen distribution
  3. 3.0 3.1 Studie in Auftrag von GEO Gesellschaft für Energie und Ökologie mbH, October 2001

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