Is lignin, ethanol blend shipping’s new green fuel?

A.P. Moller – Maersk, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marks & Spencer are exploring LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol, that could be part of the future solution for sustainable shipping.

They have teamed up with Copenhagen University to form the LEO Coalition, which will explore the environmental and commercial viability of using LEO fuel for shipping.

Copenhagen University is currently running the laboratory-scale development of this potential marine fuel.

The project aims to move into phase II – testing the lignin and ethanol blend on actual vessel engines – in the second quarter of 2020.

Following a successful phase II, phase III will begin that includes the scaling up of LEO fuel production.

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.

The marine sector has very different fuel requirements than automotive or aviation.

Søren Toft, Maersk Chief Operating Officer, says: “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,”

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.

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, including the sea transport logistics that plays an important role.

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