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Maersk and big brands line up to develop lignin-blend-based fuel for shipping

Maersk is helping to develop low-carbon fuels for shipping

“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.”

Integrated container logistics firm Maersk is working alongside well-known brands like BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co, Marks & Spencer, and Scandinavian firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen to develop a bio-based fuel for the shipping

The fuel is called LEO – a blend of lignin and ethanol – that could be part of the future solution for sustainable shipping.

“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,” said Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer at Maersk.

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

According to Maersk, shipping accounts for 2-3% 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.

“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, Chief Executive Officer at Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

According to Maersk, 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: “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.

Bio Market Insights published a sustainable supply chain report earlier this year. To read more about this, please click here.


If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: 5 Minutes With… Bram Gräber and Rebecca Groen from SHV Energy.

Read: Building the partnerships to help Europe achieve its bio-based potential.

Read: Ikea and H&M group collaborate on ‘chemicals in recycled textiles’ study.

Read:5 Minutes With Mattias Bodin from H&M

Read: Stora Enso bring bio-based lignin to market as a replacement for oil-based phenolic materials.

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