New coalition led by Maersk to explore use of lignin, ethanol blend as marine fuel

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A.P. Moller – Maersk has joined forces with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss and Marks & Spencer to explore LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol, as a potential future sustainable shipping fuel.

The LEO Coalition, which also includes Copenhagen University, will consider the environmental and commercial viability of LEO fuel for shipping. The sector currently accounts for 2-3% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and as such, has an urgent need to reduce its environmental impact.

“Shipping requires bespoke low-carbon fuel solutions which can make the leap from the laboratory to the global shipping fleet,” explained Søren Toft, COO at Maersk. “Initiatives such as the LEO Coalition are an important catalyst in this process.”

“Our customers’ ambitions on sustainability are increasing rapidly, and we applaud this development,” added Craig Jasienski, CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen. “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.”

Lignin is a structural bio-polymer that contributes to the rigidity of plants. It is isolated in large quantities as a by-product of lignocellulosic ethanol and pulp and paper mills, and is currently incinerated to produce steam and electricity.

Helena Helmersson, COO at H&M Group, added 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 undertaking a laboratory-scale developing of LEO as a potential marine fuel. The project aims to move into a second phase – testing the fuel on vessel engines – in the second quarter of 2020.

A third phase, which will see the scaling up of LEO fuel production, will follow a successful second phase of the project.