Focus on the future

Day four of the APGA Virtual Convention 2020 had a focus on the future with future fuels and future thinking among the highlights.

Replacing natural gas with hydrogen could dramatically lower emissions while enabling industrial application and costing less than full electrification, but there are still some problems to solve.

A significant amount of work is being done, particularly at the Future Fuels CRC, on the main issue which is preventing conversion of the nation’s gas transmission pipelines to hydrogen and that is hydrogen embrittlement: the characteristics of metal can be altered because of exposure to hydrogen.

GPA Engineering Lead Mechanical Engineer Josh Wickham and Epic Energy Principal Pipeline Engineer James Czornohalan said it was important to establish a standard so that Australia’s gas infrastructure could be converted to safely carry hydrogen.

Both Europe and the US have developed standards for hydrogen in pipelines, but these can’t be adopted in Australia because for decades we taken a different, risk-based, rather than prescribed, approach to the standard for transmission pipelines: AS 2885.

“Fundamentally, we built different pipelines in Australia to the Americans and the Europeans,” James said.

Hydrogen projects now under way in Australia will be injecting hydrogen into distribution networks which operate at lower pressure than transmission systems. Transmission pipelines rely on toughness to prevent failure, so new solutions must be found to allow them to transport hydrogen.

“We need new theory, new models for hydrogen service to really predict accurately fracture initiation, propagation, and fatigue in hydrogen blends and full hydrogen service,” Josh said.

This work can be complicated by a lack of testing resources, but the process of setting it up is now under way.

Change your brain

The pace of change in the modern world is increasing exponentially and we have to change the way we think to keep going, the APGA Virtual Convention heard today.

It was a time of uncertainty which made predicting the future even more difficult, Georgiou Group Business Development Manager Phil Larson said.

Transformation in many sectors was running at an exponential rate: for example, the lifespan of companies was now about 15 years only.

“This means we have to make a conscious effort to change the way we think,” Phil said.

“Our brains are wired to think in a linear fashion. We compare all our past experiences and project them into the future, and because our past experiences haven’t been largely exponential until recent times it becomes quite difficult for us to imagine exactly what the future holds.”

The future arrives before you expect it to.

“We were all getting busy digitising our businesses but COVID-19 really created the burning platform, the new level of compelling case to move forward with that,” he said.

The world is living with a higher than usual level of uncertainty, with the continuing issue of COVID-19 pandemic, the closely fought US election, the unpredictability of many foreign powers,

Businesses should review and reinvigorate their strategic plans, plan for change at an accelerating rate, plan for uncertainty and have a Plan B.