Transporting sodium batteries

In this feature article, Caroline Raine discusses some of the emerging battery technologies, namely sodium batteries, and how these can be transported safely using the new multilateral agreement M340.

Background

Like lithium batteries, sodium ion batteries (NIB) are rechargeable batteries using sodium ions (Na+) as the charge carriers instead of Lithium (Li+). The technology is pretty much identical with sodium compounds being used instead of lithium compounds.

Lithium-ion batteries are deemed to have high environmental impacts whereas sodium is naturally occurring and is in abundance. Meaning they could be much cheaper and better for the environment.

Transport of sodium ion batteries

Multilateral Special Agreement 340

To date sodium batteries are not in wide use but due to the increase in production, and thus transport of sodium ion batteries, a multilateral agreement was required to ensure the safe transport. Sodium ion batteries are not listed in ADR2021 and so an agreement was required to ensure the safe transport, hence Multilateral Special Agreement 340 was created, published and signed. It expires on 31 December 2022. It is likely to be included in ADR2023.

France was the first country to sign it in July 2021, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium in August 2021.

Multilateral Special Agreement 340 and RID 06/2021 concerns the carriage of sodium-ion batteries and sodium-ion cells using an organic electrolyte or sodium-ion batteries and sodium-ion cells using an organic electrolyte contained in equipment or packed with equipment.

Multilateral agreements and their signatories can be found on the UNECE website. M340 can be found here.

UN number and Proper Shipping Names

The multilateral agreement allows:

  • SODIUM-ION BATTERIES and SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE or

  • SODIUM-ION BATTERIES and SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT or PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT

to be transported without being assigned to a UN number and without applying the requirements assigned to “UN 3292 BATTERIES, CONTAINING SODIUM or CELLS, CONTAINING SODIUM”.

To be able to do this, there are a few other requirements that must be followed. For example, construction and testing requirements as outlined in the multilateral agreement.

No UN number needs indicating in the transport document and the proper shipping name used in the document shall be, as appropriate:

  • SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE.

  • SODIUM-ION BATTERIES USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE.

  • SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT.

  • SODIUM-ION BATTERIES USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT.

  • SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT.

  • SODIUM-ION BATTERIES USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT.

Special provisions

Sodium ion batteries have been assigned some of the same special provisions as lithium ion batteries namely:

Special provisions 188, 230, 296, 328, 348, 360, 376 and 377.

“Sodium-ion” should be read in place of “Lithium-ion”.

SP 188

SP 188 exempts lithium batteries from other provisions of the code; however, shipment must meet the following provisions of SP 188:

  • lithium content/watt-hour rating for cells

  • aggregate lithium content/watt-hour rating for batteries

  • manufacturing and testing

  • package

  • when installed in equipment

  • package marking

  • drop test of package

  • gross mass of packages.

SP 188 of Chapter 3.3 shows that lithium cells and batteries meeting the provisions of SP 188 shall be marked with the new lithium battery mark, see Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 — Lithium Battery Mark

* Place for UN number(s), ie UN 3090, UN 3091, UN 3480 and/or UN 3481, as applicable. The UN number(s) indicated on the mark should be at least 12mm high.

** Place for telephone number.

This marking requirement does not apply to:

  • packages containing only button cell batteries installed in equipment (including circuit boards)

  • packages containing no more than four cells or two batteries installed in equipment and no more than two packages per consignment.

SP 230

Lithium cells and batteries may be carried under this entry if they meet the provisions of 2.2.9.1.7 — which refers to testing criteria and quality management programmes.

SP296

Relevant for life saving appliances.

SP328

Applies to fuel cell cartridges.

SP 348

States that batteries manufactured after 31 December 2011 shall be marked with the watt-hour rating on the outside case.

SP 360

States that vehicles powered only by lithium metal or ion batteries shall be classified as UN 3171 — battery-powered vehicle.

SP 376

Covers the requirements for damaged and defective lithium batteries.

“NOTE: In assessing a cell or battery as damaged or defective, an assessment or evaluation shall be performed based on safety criteria from the cell, battery or product manufacturer or by a technical expert with knowledge of the cell’s or battery’s safety features. An assessment or evaluation may include, but is not limited to, the following criteria:

  1. Acute hazard, such as gas, fire, or electrolyte leaking;

  2. The use or misuse of the cell or battery;

  3. Signs of physical damage, such as deformation to cell or battery casing, or colours on the casing;

  4. External and internal short circuit protection, such as voltage or isolation measures;

  5. The condition of the cell or battery safety features; or

  6. Damage to any internal safety components, such as the battery management system.”

SP 377

Covers the requirements for waste and recycling of lithium batteries.

Class and tunnel code

SODIUM-ION BATTERIES and SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE or

SODIUM-ION BATTERIES and SODIUM-ION CELLS USING AN ORGANIC ELECTROLYTE CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT or PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT have been assigned to Class 9 and tunnel code E.

Marking and labelling

Marking with the UN number is not required (since none is assigned), and for labelling the 9A label is required. When transporting using special provision 188 the lithium battery mark is also required (again without the UN number).

Packing Instructions

Packing instructions P903, P905, P908, P909, P910, P911, LP903, LP904, LP905 and LP906 have been assigned, again replacing “lithium ion” with “sodium ion”.

Transport Document

The following sentence shall be mentioned in the transport document

“Carriage in accordance with Multilateral Agreement M340 (7)” .

Conclusions

There are changes to the transport of dangerous goods for sodium ion batteries. They are only applicable in countries that have signed to multilateral agreement.

If you are shipping batteries, pay particular attention to the fact they must now be transported as sodium ion batteries and not as UN 3292 BATTERIES, CONTAINING SODIUM or CELLS, CONTAINING SODIUM.

This article is a summary of the changes. The regulations must be referred to in full before any shipment is made. Please contact your company’s DGSA if you require further advice.