Maersk to develop new bio-fuel with customer backing
Maersk and 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 – a blend of lignin and ethanol – that could be part of the future solution for sustainable shipping.
The marine sector has very different fuel requirements than automotive or aviation. “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 Søren Toft, Maersk Chief Operating Officer.
Lignin is a structural bio polymer which contributes to the rigidity of plant cells. 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. Sea transport logistics plays an important role for the BMW Group´s vehicle production and distribution processes all over the world. As the company fosters sustainability along the entire value chain the participation at the LEO project is a valuable commitment.
Helena Helmersson, Chief Operating Officer at H&M Group said that “climate change is an ongoing reality and a key challenge to all industries, including fashion. 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. This coalition gives us the opportunity to explore the development of a low-carbon fuel for shipping today.”
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 has previously explored the possibility of lignin-based biofuels and the EU has also funded projects such as FALCON which is researching fuels made from lignin.