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In the pipeline: analyzing hydrogen embrittlement in pipelines

Rohan Versteegen

Rohan Versteegen | Team Lead, Asset Advisory, Perth | 06 June 2021

The world’s existing gas pipeline network could be the answer to transporting hydrogen. But how do we deal with the issue of hydrogen embrittlement? Our study looks at this in detail.

Hydrogen is part of the future of net zero emissions. And transporting it using existing natural gas pipelines could piece part of the circular economy together. However, hydrogen embrittlement weakens pipelines, potentially resulting in the materials cracking. This might expose hydrogen gas to air, making it flammable.

We recently carried out a study exploring hydrogen embrittlement in a variety of pipeline materials. Our goal was to establish the conditions in which hydrogen embrittlement happens. And recommend steps that the industry should take to manage the risk.

Embrittlement takes place when a material – usually metal – absorbs hydrogen atoms. As a result, it loses its flexibility and ability to carry loads. The material then cracks or fractures under pressures it would normally withstand.

Exploring a way to overcome hydrogen embrittlement

We started off by identifying the culprits of hydrogen embrittlement, taking the pipeline’s age into consideration. This helped us understand its fitness for transporting hydrogen. Our team also evaluated different metals and how they undergo material degradation when in contact with hydrogen over time. And drew data from the impact different operating conditions had on the material’s integrity.

Subsequently, we made key findings such as using gaseous inhibitors to reduce disassociation. We also identified high-density polyethylene pipelines as suitable for transporting hydrogen gas. These and more findings will help lay the foundation for transporting hydrogen and managing the risks involved.

Read more about our research and its findings by downloading our white paper.


Gilles Dour – Principal Integrity Engineer 
Dmitry Sidorin – Lead Corrosion and Materials Engineer 


In the pipeline: an analysis of hydrogen embrittlement in Australia’s pipeline networks