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New report assesses risks posed by maritime batteries

10 January 2020

DNV GL has released a new report on battery safety in ships following a three-year collaboration with the Norwegian, Danish and US maritime authorities, battery manufacturers, system integrators, suppliers of fire extinguishing systems, shipyards and shipowners.

Image: DNV GL
Image: DNV GL

The report, Technical Reference for Li-ion Battery Explosion Risk and Fire Suppression, offers several new safety considerations and determines the explosion and fire risks associated with maritime battery installation and the effectiveness of fire extinguishing systems in the event of a battery fire. “Batteries onboard ships are both environmentally friendly and cost-effective solutions that we wish to see more of in the future. This project has been important in learning the risks of these systems and using the new insight to improve safety requirements,” Lars Alvestad, Acting Director of the Norwegian Maritime Authority said.

DNV GL’s new report presents the results of research on what happens during a fire in a battery compartment, the release of gases, and the usefulness of various extinguishing systems in combatting the fire and preventing explosions. One of the most important findings concerns ventilation systems, which are critical to avoiding an accumulation of explosive gas. The report concludes that ventilation alone will not adequately mitigate gas accumulation if a significant portion of the battery system ignites.

"In addition to fire suppression and ventilation, the battery design must have preventative safety barriers so that the fire and gas emissions are limited to as small a part of the battery system as possible," says Henrik Helgesen, Project Manager for the research project and Senior Consultant at DNV GL.

DNV GL's large battery destructive test chamber in Rochester, UK – Image: DNV GL
DNV GL's large battery destructive test chamber in Rochester, UK – Image: DNV GL

The report provides new recommendations on ventilation systems, based on a newly created model which identifies the appropriate size and type of ventilation system based on a vessel’s battery installation. Early fire and gas detection are also essential, meaning that the gas sensor should be located as close to the battery as possible.

The use of lithium-ion battery systems is becoming increasingly popular in the maritime industry, with batteries being used in around 300 vessels that are currently in operation or under construction. DNV GL’s report follows an explosion onboard a Norwegian battery-hybrid car ferry in October 2019 which is thought to have been caused by a coolant leak from a gasket in the liquid-cooled energy storage system.

To download the report, please click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

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