The energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable or cleaner energy sources is upon us. There is also a global focus on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. Several major companies are placing an emphasis on solutions such as hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration or reuse. While this will provide new business opportunities for the pipeline industry, there are inherent risks, especially as they are scaled up to meet societal demand. Therefore, there is a need to assess the potential for harm to people and the environment.
Hydrogen is a flammable gas with the potential for both fire and explosion. Carbon dioxide is an asphyxiant at high concentrations and can dissolve in water, having unintended environmental effects. Traditional oil dispersion models have been used by the oil and gas sector and pipeline industry for decades to investigate overland, downstream, and in water movement, behavior, and potential effects of hypothetical and real-world releases. Atmospheric dispersion models have been used to assess vapor transport, resulting potential impacts (e.g., asphyxiation and or toxic effects) to humans and the environment, and risk of fire and explosion.
Based upon our experience with the current regulatory environment, the scrutiny placed upon operators by regulators and intervenors (especially with other products such as oil), and the large amount of time required to plan, permit, construct, and operate pipelines, we believe these comprehensive and quantitative assessments will be at the forefront of decision making. The use and potential adaptation of these existing modeling tools will be crucial in assessing risk from transport, storage, and use to ensure safety of each project through all phases of its life cycle (e.g., prior to permitting, construction, operation, and decommissioning) during this energy transition.