Fire fighters injured in gas explosion on board a Norway ferry
A small fire was reported on 10 October 2019 in the battery room of the Norled passenger ferry MF Ytterøyningen. The ferry returned to harbour in Norway under its own power where passengers and crew were evacuated to land. Overnight, however, a serious gas explosion rocked the battery room causing significant damage. Norwegian broadcasting company NRK reported that twelve fire fighters were taken to the hospital for exposure to hazardous gases associated with the batteries. Norwegian authorities are warning shipowners and operators about the dangers associated with lithium-ion battery systems after the fire and subsequent gas explosion on board a diesel-electric ferry in Norway. A subsequent report on the explosion, released on 13 January 2010, found that the fire may have been caused by the fire extinguishing system.
“The Norwegian Maritime Authority recommends that all shipowners with vessels that have battery installations, carry out a new risk assessment of the dangers connected to possible accumulations of explosive gases during unwanted incidents in the battery systems,” the Norwegian Maritime Authority said in statement.
Alternatively, British Columbia-based, Corvus Energy, which supplied the ferry’s battery system, has issued recommendations to operators not to sail without communication between the shipboard energy management system and the battery packs, as well as what to do in case of a gas release or ‘thermal runaway situation’.
Thermal runaway occurs when lithium-ion cell temperatures exceed the thermal runaway threshold, resulting in the sudden release of flammable, toxic gases and excessive heat that could result in an explosion.
The Norwegian Maritime Authority says the exact sequence of events in the Ytterøyningen fire has not been established, but it will issue a Safety Message update when additional facts, information and causal connections are made.
All of this has major implications for Norwegian ferry operators who are increasingly turning to hybrid diesel-electric or fully-electric power for vessels operating in environmentally sensitive fjords and coastal areas.
The Ytterøyningen was delivered in 2006 and is equipped with a Corvus Orca Energy storage system (ESS) with 1989 kWh capacity.
At this stage, there is likely no reason to believe the local fire crew did anything wrong when they entered the vessel. It can, however likely be concluded, that considering that the explosion occurred after the fire was extinguished, and after the batteries had cooled down, that the fire crew was at imminent lethal risk of being caught in the explosion, had it occurred earlier while the fire was still active.
Source: G Captain