DNV and our JIP partners are further developing KFX with 3D and transient capabilities specific to ammonia to enable accurate and comprehensive quantitative industrial safety analyses related to dispersion from accidental ammonia releases.
Ammonia (NH3) has the potential to play an important role in the energy mix of a future low-carbon and more sustainable society. Ammonia is highly relevant, as it can be produced from renewable sources or from hydrocarbons with carbon capture. However, significant safety challenges, especially those related to toxicity, need to be resolved for wider deployment. Equinor, Vår Energi and Horisont Energi have now partnered with DNV in a project aiming to develop an advanced simulation tool for quantitative industrial consequence analyses related to accidental ammonia releases.
Ammonia is more convenient than hydrogen to transport as a liquid in large volumes over distances due to higher energy density and lower explosion risk. This means it would be appropriate as fuel for instance for the maritime sector, or to be transported by vessel. Research is ongoing on the potential for ammonia both as fuel in combustion engines and ammonia used in fuel cells for the production of electricity as propulsion energy. Ammonia is normally stored and transported as liquid, and the potential for severe consequences is present both for bunkering, transportation, storage and use.
The most important characteristic of ammonia from a safety point of view is the toxicity it represents for people. Leaks are dangerous if people are in the vicinity. According to the US Code of Federal Regulations, ammonia is classified as an extremely hazardous substance and the IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) value for NH3 is 300 ppm. Liquid ammonia leaks will as a rule evaporate at atmospheric conditions, and when the gas is diluted, it will tend to follow the air flow, meaning it can spread over long distances in dangerous concentrations. Reliable ammonia safety analyses are therefore crucial for acceptance from regulating authorities and the public when planning and operating an ammonia infrastructure.
Another challenge for the project concerns one of the most important characteristics of NH3, which is that it is highly soluble in water. This can be used for practical mitigation means, for instance, use of water curtains as a barrier at bunkering systems will be investigated. Dispersion could also be impacted by humidity in the air and potentially reduce the dispersion and thus safety distances.
The objective of the JIP is to further develop KFX over the next three years, bringing in detailed ammonia simulation capabilities and supporting a new level of safety for transport and storage of ammonia.
At the end of the project period, a KFX version with 3D and transient capabilities specific to ammonia, with focus on enabling accurate and comprehensive quantitative industrial safety analyses related to dispersion from accidental ammonia releases will then be commercially available, which will be crucial for the safe deployment of ammonia infrastructure.
The JIP includes Equinor, Vår Energi, Horisont Energi and is led by DNV.
The project will be completed at the end of 2024, and we are seeking more partners to contribute to the development.