AP Moller-Maersk, a Danish shipping company, announced that it accelerates its decarbonization plans with the launch of the world’s first carbon-neutral liner vessel by 2023, which is seven years ahead of its initial schedule, as the world’s largest containers shipping liner comes under pressure to cut carbon emissions. Søren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller – Maersk said, ‘Our ambition to have a carbon-neutral fleet by 2050 was a moonshot when we announced in 2018. Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach.’
“Our ambition to have a carbon neutral fleet by 2050 was a moonshot when we announced in 2018.
Today we see it as a challenging, yet achievable target to reach.“
CEO, A.P. Moller – Maersk
The line also said that all its future owned newbuilt ships will be installed with dual-fuel technology, enabling either carbon-neutral operations or operations on standard very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO). It plans that its methanol feeder vessel with a capacity of about 2,000 TEU will be deployed in one of its intra-regional networks. While the vessel will be operated on the standard VLSFO, Maersk said it aims to operate the vessel on carbon-neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol. Both the methanol-fueled feeder vessel and the project to install dual-fuel engines on its future owned newbuilt ships are part of its ongoing fleet replacement.
An extensive investment of energy and capital into R&D efforts to bring feasible alternative fuels and propulsion technologies to the marketplace
While to achieve the IMO decarbonization goals, drastic emission reduction must occur in the shipping industry, container shipping is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize since scalable solutions such as electric batteries that are available to other modes of transport do not fit vessels that are large-sized and travel long distances without stopping. The only commercially available options to greatly cut emissions from the shipping industry at scale are LNG or biofuel, none of which are going to provide a long-term or full solution alone. Logistical and technical issues must be tackled before biofuels can be deployed for the shipping industry. There should be an extensive investment of energy and capital into R&D efforts to bring feasible alternative fuels and propulsion technologies to the marketplace for the shipping industry to employ.
The IMO concluded a two-day online symposium on zero-carbon fuel options to ensure shipping’s path to decarbonization on 9-10 February. “IMO wants to further accelerate such initiatives by providing the global forum for sharing knowledge, to promote R&D, and to build partnerships between stakeholders, among public and private sectors, not only in the shipping industry and ports but also private and development banks, and academia at international, national and local levels,” said Kitack Lim, IMO’s Secretary-General. In the online seminar, a number of speakers shared information about practical lessons learned from the use of the currently already available alternative fuels such as LNG and biofuels, while also highlighting the potential of further reducing the GHG emissions associated with their use (i.e. reducing methane slip or increasing the use of biogas).
(Opening remarks by the Secretary-General, Kitack Lim)
LNG is in widespread use, while alternative fuels such as ammonia, bio-methanol, and hydrogen require high capital investment
LNG, viewed as ‘a bridge fuel’ to zero carbon fuel, is in widespread use, while a French carrier CMA_CGM is taking a leading role in the use of the fuel. The company will be running nine LNG fueled 23,000 TEU mega-ships by 2022. Methanol, a potential alternative to future hydrogen and bio fueling, is available to many ports and requires very few modifications to the existing bunkering infrastructure. However, the supply of methanol at scale is crucial to be deployed as a marine fuel, requiring more methanol to be produced. The alternative fuels most heard of recently are ammonia, bio-methanol, and hydrogen, but they are still more expensive than methanol, making them challenging in terms of investment required. The cost of hydrogen is three times higher than methanol, and ammonia is twice the cost. However, although methanol has lower carbon emissions when used as a marine fuel than conventional fuel oil, it is not a completely carbon-free fuel unless more can be produced from renewable sources. Renewable methanol would potentially provide a solution to comply with future IMO emission regulations, for which transitional technologies are essential to lead towards zero or net-zero carbon solutions.
The Methanol Institute welcomes Maersk’s announcement on the use of renewable Methanol
The Methanol Institute, which advocates for the adoption of Methanol as a marine fuel and other transport fuel, welcomes Maersk’s announcement on the use of renewable Methanol. Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer of the Methanol Institute, said: “Maersk is once again showing industry leadership in adopting renewable Methanol as a key plank in its strategy towards carbon neutrality. Methanol is proven as a clean, efficient, and safe marine fuel that offers immediate decarbonization benefits to vessel operators with substantial net GHG reductions, full compliance with IMO2020, and a pathway that leads to net carbon neutrality as the production of renewable Methanol grows.”
The production of renewable methanol from biomass and CO2 and H2 is not restricted by technology but the political will
In November 2020, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee approved Interim guidelines for the uses of methyl and ethyl alcohol on ships during meetings. With growing methanol availability in ports and IMO’s approval, more vessels run on the fuel will be built, and ships converted to this low emissions fuel. Marine transportation will likely be main drivers for the expansion of renewable methanol, as mandates and legislation are being increasingly put in place by regulating authorities to cut GHG emissions and achieve sustainability goals. However, the main obstacle to renewable methanol is the higher cost compared to fossil fuels. The production of renewable methanol from biomass and CO2 and H2 is not restricted by technology but the political will to stimulate increased use of renewable solutions.