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Moller-Maersk, Wallenius Wilhelmsen join with clients to develop LEO

Global shipping majors A.P Moller–Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with Denmark's Copenhagen University and major customers including BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marks & Spencer to form the LEO Coalition, which will explore the environmental and commercial viability of lignin-ethanol oil (LEO) fuel.

A.P. Moller – Maersk alongside with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and, Marks & Spencer to explore lignin-ethanol oil (LEO), a maritime biofuel being developed by Copenhagen University and that could be part of the future solution for sustainable shipping (photo courtesy Maersk).

Shipping accounts for 2-3 percent of global carbon dioxide (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.

However, the marine sector has very different fuel requirements than automotive or aviation.

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, explained Søren Toft, Maersk Chief Operating Officer.

Lignin and ethanol widely available

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.

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, CEO, Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

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 in 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 in LEO Coalition project is a valuable commitment.

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 reducing 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, said Helena Helmersson, Chief Operating Officer at H&M Group.

Developed by Copenhagen University

LEO is prepared by dissolving up to 40 percent lignin in ethanol at process temperatures below 200°C. With an energy density of approximately 30 MJ/kg), LEO can be used directly in a Liquid Gas Injection (LGI) marine diesel engine and, by adding cetane enhancers, LEO can be used in non-modified marine diesel engines.

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.

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