Fit for purpose, fit for the energy transition

There’s no doubt the transition away from fossil fuels in the coming decades will impact the whole length of the oil and gas supply chain. But even though the shift to green energy is currently slow and incremental, it will only gather pace as governments, energy companies, and indeed whole industries such as aviation, automotive, and manufacturing, accelerate their journeys to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

As we’re seeing, large oil and gas operators are investing significant sums today to meet the anticipated demand of tomorrow’s hydrogen-based global economy.

In fact, according to the Hydrogen Council and McKinsey & Co’s Hydrogen Insights 2023 report, 680 large-scale, global hydrogen projects are due to be operational by 2030. What’s more, the $240bn invested in them represents a 50% increase from November 2021. Proof, if it was needed, that many major energy players are betting on hydrogen – the most abundant element in the universe.

As an aside, it’s worth mentioning the same report also believes it’s unfeasible that use of fossil-fuels will end by 2050 (the year set by the United Nation’s Net Zero Coalition). And this overshoot will lead to a huge expenditure on carbon capture and removal in the 2040s to compensate and off-set continued emissions of hydrocarbons.

What it means for the valve supply chain

So what will the energy transition mean for the valve supply chain, generally, and for us at HSP, specifically?

Well, before countries turn to hydrogen to power homes, fuel transport, and underpin their industrial, manufacturing and commercial base, they’ll first need to upgrade their entire gas infrastructure to accommodate H2’s different elemental properties.

For example, hydrogen molecules are smaller and lighter than natural gas, increasing the potential for leakage. Add to this its flammability limit compared to natural gas and it’s clear hydrogen presents both increased risks and challenges.

What it means for HSP

The good news for HSP, and our customers, is that we’ve been thinking about and preparing for the shift to hydrogen for a while now. In other words, we’ve been applying our nearly 45 years of experience and expertise in supplying valves to EPCs, OEMs, and end-users, to the challenges the energy transition will bring to our particular part of the supply chain.

In many respects, it’s “plus ça change” – the more things change the more they stay the same. By that I mean the design of ball valves used in offshore oil rigs are very similar to those used in plants producing hydrogen, but there are some notable differences.

As mentioned, hydrogen’s elemental properties present different challenges compared to natural gas, and with industry-wide standards and regulations to guide the manufacture and supply of hydrogen valves yet to be agreed, it’s imperative careful consideration is given to material selection and qualification, design, and validation testing.

Global standards

As hydrogen begins to play an increasingly large part in global energy provision, it’ll be essential for regulators to establish industry-wide standards and safety protocols for the global H2 supply chain. Currently, both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Manufacturers Standardisation Society (MSS) are working to develop standards for hydrogen valves in service.

And in Europe, the CEN and CENELEC are drafting new standards to reduce the technical barriers associated with the rapid and safe adoption of hydrogen technology, while the British Valve and Actuator Association (BVVA) has also set up a technical expert group (TEG) to give members a way to contribute to developing these standards.


…and why we’re becoming Fit For Hydrogen (F4H2)

At HSP, we firmly believe that hydrogen will be part of the future energy portfolio and we’re developing our business to embrace a future fuelled by it, while ensuring we maintain our core business servicing the oil and gas industry.

We’re one of just 30 UK manufacturing companies who have been audited, and subsequently selected for, Fit For Hydrogen – a new programme to measure and develop our capabilities to supply hydrogen production and carbon capture markets to “Fit For” standards.

Given the potential risks of hydrogen, F4H2 is managed by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and based on its “Fit For” model of supplier development.

The programme assesses companies in the H2 supply chain based on a range of requirements, ranging from strategy and leadership, to design and project management, to people and process excellence.

After passing the F4H2’s initial “business excellence assessment” to qualify for the programme, we recently completed the onsite “verification assessment”. This means we’re now one of the first companies in the UK to be involved with the Nuclear AMRC’s “Fit for Hydrogen” programme. It’s an added level of validation for our approach but also an extra level of reassurance for our customers.

It’s just one more way we think we can add value to, and confidence in, the process of specifying, designing, manufacturing, testing and inspecting, and shipping to site of hydrogen valves for installation and commissioning. If you need a reminder of the other ways, check out my colleague, Derrick Mackenzie’s, article on choosing a valve supplier.

The global journey to net zero is as challenging as it is inevitable. Every company in every sector has a part to play in that journey, but especially those in the energy supply chain.

At HSP, we think the trick is to embrace the transition to cleaner, greener energy and get ahead of the curve and abreast of the issues and challenges now.

Why? Because it will be much simpler, easier, and more cost-effective than trying to play catch-up once governments and regulators start enforcing change on the hydrogen supply chain in the near future.

Author: client

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