Maersk Working on Two Biofuel Projects

Thursday March 21, 2013

A.P. Møller-Maersk (Maersk) says it is working with partners on two projects designed to develop biomass-based marine fuels.

Both projects involve work on an organic polymer called lignin found in plants, which is released during the production of paper and bio-ethanol.

"Lignin has a variety of industrial uses already because of its chemical characteristics, energy content and its abundance; yet its potential as a marine diesel fuel is a relatively uncharted area," said Peter Normark Sørensen of Maersk Oil Trading, the Maersk Group's oil buying arm.

One of the projects involves a partnership with Progression Industry, a spin-off company of Eindhoven University of Technology, while the other, called "Biomass for the 21st Century" involves DONG Energy and other companies and academic institutions and is co-funded by the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation.

"If either of these projects is able to make a biofuel that meets our requirements that would be very exciting and could let the industry and markets focus on the challenges that would follow - the scale and logistics required to make it a commercial alternative," Normark said.

Maersk has promised that if Progression Industry can make a lignin-based fuel that meets Maersk's criteria, Maersk will buy 50,000 tonnes of the fuel.

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

"In the longer term oil is simply going to run out, so we need to start looking for alternatives.

"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."

Maersk Line recently released a report on its sustainability initiatives, saying that reducing fuel has not only saved it $1.6 billion but allowed it to achieve a profit in 2012, and promised a continued commitment to reducing its environmental impacts.