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Shipping

Maersk-led coalition to make sustainable marine fuel from lignin & ethanol

October 31, 2019: Global ship operators Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with Copenhagen University and major customers to develop the new sustainable marine fuel LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol.

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

October 31, 2019: Global ship operators Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with Copenhagen University and major customers to develop the new sustainable marine fuel LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol. Along with their customers BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marks & Spencer, the LEO Coalition will explore the environmental and commercial viability of LEO fuel for shipping.

Søren Toft, chief operating officer, Maersk said “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.”


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.

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, the scaling up of LEO fuel production will begin.

From the phone, tablet or computer, to the fruits, the trousers or the car, around 80% of the goods we use every day are delivered by sea. 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. The industry that has very different fuel requirements than automotive or aviation also has an urgent need to reduce its environmental impact.

Craig Jasienski, chief executive officer, Wallenius Wilhelmsen said “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.”

Helena Helmersson, chief operating officer, 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 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.”

Sea transport logistics plays an important role in the BMW Group´s vehicle production and distribution processes also.

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