A.P. Moller-Maersk To Explore Alternative Fuel For Its Ship Fleet

Published Mar 20, 2013 1:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Wednesday they have entered into an agreement to explore biofuel as an alternative energy source for its ship fleet.

The group said in a statement they signed in February a memorandum of understanding with Progression Industry - a spin-off company of Eindhoven University of Technology - to develop a viable marine fuel from lignin, a complex organic polymer found in plants.

Maersk, which has an annual fuel bill of $7 billion for vessel operations, will buy 50,000 tonnes of this fuel if Progression can produce a lignin based fuel that meets Maersk's criteria.

"For the past 75 years, the shipping companies have used oil, but looking at the next 75 years this is likely to change," Jacob Sterling, head of Environment and CSR in Maersk Line, said in the statement.

"The great thing about biofuels is that they would not only secure a future fuel supply, they will also greatly reduce our CO2 and SOx emissions," he said.

Lignin has been touted as a potential biofuel for the shipping industry as companies look for alternatives to bunker fuel which emits greenhouse gases. Tougher EU rules on the sulphur content of shipping fuel will be phased in across EU waters from 2015.

The European Commission is also putting pressure on the shipping industry to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the absence of international regulation. [ID: nL6E8L1BTK]

Lignin is used as a biomass in power plants but when it is put through a biorefining process it can be transformed into liquid fuel.

Several projects are trying to accomplish this but lignin as an alternative fuel for the marine sector is not yet in commercial production.

Maersk is also exploring other alternatives to oil. They have entered an agreement with Quadrise Fuels International to conduct sea trials of MSAR fuel, a low-cost substitute where refiners blend water and speciality chemicals into the tarry residue, instead of diesel, to produce a cheaper, cleaner fuel.

By Johan Ahlander (C) Reuters 2013.