A plan to install “the world’s first” ammonia storage and refuelling platform in a Scandinavian port has been given the go-ahead from Norwegian safety regulators, marking a significant milestone for the adoption of highly-toxic ammonia in shipping.

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Norwegian chemicals giant Yara, which is also an ammonia producer, wants to build the bunkering facility designed by Oslo-based Azane, at the Fjord Base offshore supply port in the Kinn municipality in Norway.

The green light from the Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB), Norway’s safety regulator, paves the way for the facility to begin construction this year, with first operation scheduled for 2025.

Fjord Base, 75% owned by UK fund Ancala Partners, serves as a supply base for the offshore industries, such as oil and gas producers and offshore wind farm operators, and services around 2,000 ships a year.

The bunkering facility would hold around 650 tonnes of ammonia, and be able to carry out 416 refuelling operations per year, Yara and Azane said, mostly for offshore supply vessels.

Azane is planning to develop a network of bunkering platforms to store and distribute ammonia as a shipping fuel throughout Scandinavia — partly to capitalise on Norway’s upcoming NH3 grant tenders, due this year.

Ammonia, which is derived from hydrogen, has been widely touted as shipping fuel that can decarbonise maritime operations, but questions have been raised about the safety of refuelling and burning the gas, which can cause serious harm to both humans and aquatic life if leaked or spilt.

A caustic substance, it can cause significant burns to humans if inhaled or if it comes into contact with the skin, and if it hits the water it dissolves to form ammonium hydroxide, which is highly toxic to marine life.

However, as ammonia is relatively new as a prospective shipping fuel, regulations allowing its use are largely still under development.

But Yara and Azane said the DSB approval indicate that its bunkering platform has demonstrated how it will meet the regulator’s “strict safety requirements”.

“We are grateful for the permit awarded from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection,” said Magnus Ankarstrand, president of Yara Clean Ammonia. “This acknowledges how ammonia can be used safely and efficiently as a shipping fuel at the site in Kinn.”