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New project to pave the way for Power-to-X in ports

Published: 19.12.23
Photo: Port of Rønne

DBI’s new ‘SafeSBU’ project aims to provide a set of guidelines that will support a fast and safe implementation of Power-to-X in ports. The guidelines will deal with the storage, bunkering and use of new fuels, identify training needs, and help to involve the general public in a way that they feel a sense of ownership.

Ports can become hubs for the booming Power-to-X (P2X) industry. Not only will there be storage of new fuels in the form of hydrogen, ammonia and/or methanol, fuels will also be shipped out, and the ships themselves will have to be refuelled (bunkering) and use these products as fuel for propulsion on board.

This means that ports will also become complex interfaces between different occupational groups, their tasks, and regulations on shore and at sea. The new role of ports will entail new risk scenarios for the Health Safety and Environment, as well as a need for new skills. If this area is not managed properly, a worst case scenario may see consequences for life and property, and P2X may encounter public resistance and thus slow down the green transition.

“When we talk about storage at ports, it falls under the Seveso Directive, but it starts to overlap with bunkering, because people onboard ships work under the IMO regulations at sea. There are differences between standards, approvals and who’s actually responsible for safety. As it stands right now, this is an area in which we need clarity,” confirms Jesper Sjørvad.

Different regulations

As Principal Consultant Land-based Power-to-X in the Advanced Fire Engineering, Maritime and Energy department at DBI – the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, he is one of DBI’s experts in the ‘Safe Storage, Bunkering and Usage of Green Fuel’ project – also known as SafeSBU. The project aims to provide a set of guidelines for this area, which will support a fast and safe implementation of P2X in ports. DBI is project manager for the project, which will be carried out in collaboration with FORCE Technology, and with the partners DFDS, the Port of Rønne, Aalborg University and Complete Solutions, which is a firm of consulting engineers.

The guidelines will cover three areas: Storage in the port area, bunkering and the use of fuels onboard ships while they are still in or close to the port. According to Jesper Sjørvad, in the first instance storage at the port is the least complicated, because it can be based on the existing standards for storing fossil fuels. But unresolved questions may arise, as this is a relatively new area for the ports. It does, however, becomes more unclear when it comes to the interface between land and sea.

“Take, for example, the bunkering procedure, which is different around the world. In some places, it’s a port worker who performs the task from the shore. In other places, it’s the ship’s engineer who does it. The two don’t necessarily follow the same rules or procedures, or have the same training or the same perception of safety,” says Jesper Sjørvad.

Scenario-based guidelines

The project will therefore look at where the two sets of rules are in harmony – and where there are gaps. And to capture both, according to Jesper Sjørvad, the guidelines will, to a large extent, be scenario-based and describe recommended best practice for procedures such as bunkering.

This also leads naturally to the second part of SafeSBU, namely to identify the training needs for different occupational groups at ports and onboard ships.

“The crew on board will be trained in handling situations such as fires based on marine fuel. But what if there’s a methanol fire that you can’t see, or an ammonia leak?” asks Jesper Sjørvad, emphasising that new ships using ammonia as fuel are designed and built with a high level of safety in mind.

“But at this stage, it’s safety through technical measures. Can a valve withstand that temperature, and can a gasket withstand that substance? At some point, there are people involved, turning a handle or pressing a button – or forgetting to do so – which is when the risk profile changes. We’ve experienced it all before, first in the oil and gas industry and then in the wind turbine industry,” says Jesper Sjørvad, adding:

“Therefore it’s important that the project also deals with culture. If a strong safety culture is not established and anchored, there will be an increasing potential of unwanted incidents. You can’t just send people on safety courses and assume that this makes us all safe. Often, people are interested and engaged on the day they attend the course, but afterwards they go back and continue as usual. That’s why I always say that culture is what we do when others aren’t looking at us.”

Safety concerns

With this assessment, Jesper Sjørvad moves into the area of anthropology and social sciences, where the third and final part of the project will unfold: To understand the importance of safety for the general public’s perception of alternative fuels and to create the basis for an open dialogue between the public and stakeholders in the P2X industry.

“Public perception can be a show-stopper for P2X. Therefore, it’s our ambition that the guidelines should also help address potential safety concerns and promote a positive perception of new fuels. They must be able to help stakeholders and government agencies to anticipate the concerns that may arise among local residents at and close to ports,” says Jesper Sjørvad.

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SafeSBU (Safe Storage, Bunkering and Usage of Green Fuel) is a three-year project that will provide a set of guidelines that support the safe implementation of P2X in ports. DBI is the project manager for the project, which is being carried out in collaboration with FORCE Technology, and with the partners DFDS, the Port of Rønne, Aalborg University and Complete Solutions, which is a firm of consulting engineers. The project is being financed by Innovation Fund Denmark and managed by Energy Cluster Denmark.


Jesper Sjørvad
Principal Consultant - Alternative Fuels
+45 50 80 96 33