Hydrogen `sniffer’ will cut cost of oil and gas pipeline repairs

A device for measuring the amount of hydrogen gas permeating through to the surface of solid steel looks set to slash oil and gas pipeline corrosion repair bills and boost quality control in steel mills.

Developed by Cambridge-based instrument company Ion Science, the Hydrosteel 6000 hydrogen `sniffer’ is the world’s first portable instrument for accurately measuring the tiny amounts of hydrogen given off by solid steel. High levels of hydrogen in steel can cause cracking and corrosion.

Steel mills will be able to use the instrument to check the hydrogen content of new steel while it is still hot instead of waiting until it is cold and sawing off samples for the lab. And the oil and gas industry will be able to keep an eye on hydrogen permeating through pipelines caused by hydrogen sulphide in `sour’ oil/gas mixtures.

The battery-operated Hydrosteel 6000 incorporates a collector plate with a spiral groove machined in it. The plate sweeps a defined area on the surface of the steel, drawing air through the spiral and pulling any hydrogen with it into a remote analyser. Magnets are used to bend the collector plate so that it fits the steel surface snugly.

Ion Science says it is the first device for detecting hydrogen in steel that can be moved around on steel surfaces to detect leaks and which does not require any prior surface preparation.

Other hydrogen sniffers are available, but they measure the partial pressure of hydrogen under vacuum and have to be mounted in one place. They also require clean surfaces to work properly, says Ion Science.

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