Hydrogen additions to natural gas are being considered around the globe as a means to utilize existing infrastructure to distribute hydrogen. Hydrogen is known to enhance fatigue crack growth and reduce fracture resistance of structural steels used for pressure vessels, piping and pipelines. Most research has focused on high-pressure hydrogen environments for applications of storage (>100 MPa) and delivery (10–20 MPa) in the context of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which typically store hydrogen onboard at pressure of 70 MPa. In applications of blending hydrogen into natural gas, a wide range of hydrogen contents are being considered, typically in the range of 2–20%. In natural gas infrastructure, the pressure differs depending on location in the system (i.e., transmission systems are relatively high pressure compared to low-pressure distribution systems), thus the anticipated partial pressure of hydrogen can be less than an atmosphere or more than 10 MPa. In this report, it is shown that low partial pressure hydrogen has a very strong effect on fatigue and fracture behavior of infrastructure steels. While it is acknowledged that materials compatibility with hydrogen will be important for systems operating with high stresses, the effects of hydrogen do not seem to be a significant threat for systems operating at low pressure as in distribution infrastructure. In any case, system operators considering the addition of hydrogen to their network must carefully consider the structural performance of their system and the significant effects of hydrogen on structural integrity, as fatigue and fracture properties of all steels in the natural gas infrastructure will be degraded by hydrogen, even for partial pressure of hydrogen less than 0.1 MPa.

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