LFP Battery Storage Shipping Classifications

April 19, 2024

More info on:  UN 3090, 3091, 3480, 3481, 3536 and IMO Class 8 and 9.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of energy technology, lithium batteries have become indispensable due to their high energy density, rechargeability, and efficiency. These batteries are critical in applications ranging from small electronics to large-scale energy storage systems that help stabilize electric grids and integrate renewable energy sources. However, the very properties that make lithium batteries valuable also introduce significant safety risks, notably the potential for thermal runaway that can lead to fires and explosions.

To mitigate these risks during transportation and storage, international regulatory bodies have developed specific classifications and regulations. The United Nations (UN) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) play pivotal roles in this regulatory framework by assigning specific codes and classes to different types of hazardous materials, including lithium batteries.  The following

UN Numbers for Lithium Batteries in Energy Storage

  • UN 3090: Lithium metal batteries
    • Applications: Non-rechargeable lithium metal batteries used in watches, calculators, and backup power supplies.
    • Hazards: Fire and explosion risks from short circuits, overheating, or physical damage.
  • UN 3091: Lithium metal batteries packed with equipment or contained in equipment
    • Applications: Equipment integrated with or containing lithium metal batteries.
    • Hazards: Fire and explosion risks as above.
  • UN 3480: Lithium ion batteries
    • Applications: Rechargeable lithium ion batteries primarily used in large-scale energy storage systems, such as those used to stabilize grid power or store renewable energy.
    • Hazards: Fire and explosion risks from thermal runaway.
  • UN 3481: Lithium ion batteries packed with equipment or contained in equipment
    • Applications: Energy storage systems where lithium ion batteries are integrated into the storage unit or are part of a larger piece of equipment.
    • Hazards: Similar risks of fire and explosion due to thermal runaway.
  • UN 3536: Lithium batteries installed in a cargo transport unit
    • Applications: Shipping or transportation of large-scale lithium battery setups, often in the form of containerized energy storage systems which may be used in grid support, emergency power backup, or as part of renewable energy installations.
    • Hazards: Increased risk of fire and explosion due to the large quantities and high energy densities of lithium batteries.

These classifications address the specific safety measures necessary for the handling and transport of lithium batteries in energy storage applications, highlighting the significant risks associated with their energy density and chemical properties. Proper compliance with these regulations is crucial for safe storage, handling, and transportation.

The UN numbers — such as UN3480, UN3481, and UN3536 — classify lithium batteries based on their configuration and application, from individual cells to batteries installed in equipment or large cargo units. These classifications are complemented by the IMO’s dangerous goods classifications, which categorize lithium batteries under Class 9, Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods, highlighting their potential for causing extreme harm if not properly managed.

IMO Classifications (International Maritime Organization)

  • Class 8: Corrosive Substances
    • Relevance: Includes some battery types that may leak corrosive liquids.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods
    • Relevance: Covers various battery types, especially lithium metal and lithium ion batteries, due to their risk of fire and chemical burns.

This framework of regulations ensures that all entities involved in the lifecycle of lithium batteries — from manufacturers to transporters to end-users — adhere to stringent safety standards. By understanding and complying with these classifications, stakeholders can not only safeguard human life and property but also enhance the efficiency and reliability of lithium battery applications in energy storage.