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Maersk partners with industry peers and customers to develop low-carbon fuel

A.P. Moller-Maersk has formed a coalition that will explore LEO—a blend of lignin and ethanol—as a potential part of the future solution for sustainable shipping.

Maersk and Norwegian/Swedish shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with Copenhagen University and major customers including BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marks & Spencer to form the LEO Coalition, which will explore the environmental and commercial viability of LEO fuel for shipping.

In a company statement issued October 29, Maersk said that with around 80% of goods delivered by sea, shipping accounts for 2% to 3% of global CO2 emissions, a proportion that is set to increase as global trade continues to grow at a sluggish but steady pace. “As such, this industry has an urgent need to reduce its environmental impact,” it said.

The marine sector has very different fuel requirements from automotive or aviation, it added. “Shipping requires bespoke low-carbon fuel solutions which can make the leap from the laboratory to the global shipping fleet. Initiatives such as the LEO Coalition are an important catalyst in this process,” explained Soren Toft, Maersk chief operating officer.

Lignin is a structural bio-polymer which contributes to the rigidity of plants. Lignin is isolated in large quantities as a byproduct of lignocellulosic ethanol and pulp and paper mills. Currently, it is often incinerated to produce steam and electricity.

“Our customers’ ambitions on sustainability are increasing rapidly, and we applaud this development. Clearly, LEO would be a great step forward for supply chain sustainability, and it has the potential to be a viable solution for today’s fleet, and not just a future vision,” said Craig Jasienski, Wallenius Wilhelmsen chief executive officer.

Leading companies in many sectors are actively exploring solutions to reduce emissions along their entire value chains, as part of the global recognition of the importance of sustainably meeting the world’s demand for goods. This very much includes the transportation and logistics sector which delivers those goods.

For the BMW group, sea transport logistics plays an important role for its vehicle production and distribution processes all over the world. It said its participation in the LEO project is part of its commitment to foster sustainability along the entire value chain.

Helena Helmersson, chief operating officer at H&M group, states that “this coalition gives us the opportunity to explore the development of a low-carbon fuel for shipping today.”

“Climate change is an ongoing reality and a key challenge to all industries, including fashion,” she further explained. “We are aware of our responsibility to stay within the planetary boundaries and are committed to reduce our impact in every aspect of our value chain, including how our products are shipped to consumers around the world.”

Copenhagen University is currently running the laboratory-scale development of this potential marine fuel. The project aims to move into phase II—testing the fuel on actual vessel engines—in the second quarter of 2020. Following a successful phase II, phase III will begin—the scaling up of LEO fuel production.

Maersk also released a statement a few days earlier that it will focus on the development of three particular kinds of fuel—alcohol, biomethane, and ammonia—as it moves toward carbon-neutral shipping.


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