A climate-friendly and promising application is emerging for the natural gas network. Operators of gas grids can keep up with the trend to feed, transport and store renewable hydrogen in existing gas networks – without additional investment in new FLOWSIC gas flow meters. Ultrasonic technology from SICK continues to provide stable measurements in gas infrastructure despite changes in gas properties.

The demand for energy remains high and will continue to increase worldwide in the next few years. If our energy supply is to remain secure, a smart energy mix must cover the new requirements. The share of natural gas in this mix is estimated to grow to more than 30 per cent – today its share is about 22 per cent.

Renewable energy generated from wind, water, sun and biomass is the priority in the current climate discussion – despite some issues affecting reliability. Power generation can fluctuate due to changing weather conditions, and the amount generated is not predictable. In addition, there is currently not enough storage space for surplus power from solar and wind power plants.

The way out of this dilemma could be the conversion of renewable energy into gas generated free of carbon dioxide. In the power-to-gas process, green electricity is converted via electrolysis into storable gas, e.g. hydrogen. Methane or synthetic natural gas can also be stored. Producers of fuel cells profit from green hydrogen, and natural gas vehicles move in a climate-friendly manner.

Energy supply with hydrogen

This power-to-gas technology has potential to reduce emissions and could play a significant role in the decarbonisation of the energy sector. The hydrogen produced can also be fed into and stored in existing natural gas networks and infrastructure. The green energy added to the natural gas is thus used in an economically efficient manner and is available in sufficient quantities at all times.

Research teams in the European Union and Asia are examining the percentage of hydrogen that can be added to the existing natural gas network without compromising supply and putting strain on consumers. The admixture of between 5-25 per cent hydrogen to natural gas is currently considered possible.

Other considerations include: protection from leakage in existing systems, material compatibility of the pipelines and fixtures, regulation for explosion protection, and finally the question of how the calorific value is determined and controlled.

Looking at gas flow meters

It is clear that the properties of natural gas change significantly when hydrogen is admixed. Many operating entities of gas networks ask whether this change has a negative effect on the measurement performance of its gas flow meters. Especially in times of cost savings, additional charges are pretty much a no-go.

“Of course, when feeding in hydrogen, the measuring devices already installed in the gas grid should still be in good working order,” Jörg Wenzel, Head of Product Marketing Services at SICK, said.

“That is why we have taken a close look at the effects of increased admixture of hydrogen on the ultrasonic technology and tested the FLOWSIC gas flow meters for this new requirement.

“Ultrasonic flow meters from SICK can measure hydrogenous natural gas. Measurement uncertainties which result from the admixture of up to 10 per cent hydrogen are either negligible or are compensated by the FLOWSIC.”

A great deal of commitment with vision

In industry, very different limit values are currently being named for the admixture of hydrogen to natural gas, ranging up to 25 per cent by volume. What seems to be clear is that the proportion of hydrogen will increase steadily over the coming years. How quickly this happens will certainly depend on the speed of investment and the progress made with developing power-to-gas technologies.

SICK is continuing to study the measuring capability of its ultrasonic measurement devices for hydrogen contents exceeding 25 per cent by volume and will adapt the gas flow meters if necessary. Operating entities of gas plants can also continue to rely on the precise custody transfer gas volume flow measurement by SICK – and power-to-gas plants as well.

This partner content is brought to you by SICK. For more information, visit

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