A new technology by Oceanit, a Hawaii USA-based company caught our eyes this month.
Oceanit unveiled a novel nanotechnology called ‘HydroPel’ that will help prevent hydrogen embrittlement in gas pipelines.
Hydrogen embrittlement is the phenomenon by which hydrogen tiny molecules diffuse into metals, making it brittle, and eventually leading to major losses of mechanical properties ending in cracking, fracturing, and failure.
Hydrogen embrittlement is the reason behind many ongoing studies by gas distribution companies, aiming at identifying limiting factors to hydrogen blending in their grids. Many experts believe that brand new H2-specific pipelines must be constructed to achieve of blending ratio above a few %, with the current technologies. What’s for sure, is that the costs of grid upgrades to cope with this phenomenon are high.
One way to prevent hydrogen embrittlement is to coat metal surfaces in contact with hydrogen with a hydrogen-tight coating. This is the type of solution Oceanit is developing.
Their HydroPel solution is an advanced surface treatment that creates a nano-protective barrier on steel pipes. It can be applied in-situ to existing pipelines, unlocking the ability to treat large chunks of the existing infrastructure.
This could help reduce the costs of upgrading the infrastructure to a higher blend level capability.
Many of the prospective studies we read about hydrogen ignore the cost reductions that innovation can bring. Admittedly, a foresight study that compares several technologies and/or scenarios is already very complex, so adding assumptions about innovation can become simply impossible. Nevertheless, the engineer and the decision-maker must keep in mind that the estimates and conclusions of this type of study must be corrected by the breaks that innovations can bring and the new ways they can make possible.