Maersk and Wilhelmsen pursue ethanol en route to decarbonisation

Danish shipping giant Maersk has teamed up with partners Wallenius Wilhelmsen, BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss and Marks & Spencer to explore LEO fuel, a blend of lignin and ethanol, as part of the solution for sustainable shipping in the future.

The companies have formed the LEO Coalition to explore the environmental and commercial viability of LEO fuel.

“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, chief operating officer of Maersk.

Lignin is a plant fiber and a byproduct of ethanol production and pulp and paper mills. 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, Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s CEO.

Copenhagen University is currently running a laboratory-scale development of the potential marine fuel. The project aims to move into phase two – testing the fuel on actual vessel engines in the second quarter of 2020.

Last week, a study by Maersk and Lloyds Register claimed that the the best positioned fuels for research and development into net zero fuels for shipping are alcohol, biomethane and ammonia.

Maersk is also part of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition (DSGC), a consortium aiming to promote the use of biofuels in shipping.

“Shipping is responsible for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so the industry has significant potential to help create a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. Maersk is determined to play its part by leading the development and scaling of future solutions,” Maersk said in a release.

Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.


  1. At a time when the world population is continuing to grow uncontrolled, are we sure that we want to dedicate more and more land to the production of so called ‘bio-fuels’ and therefore either away from food production or after the clearing of CO2 absorbing natural forests?

    There are much better ways of containing and reducing carbon emissions while meeting the need for food production and forest protection and expansion.

    Hydrocarbons are seen as the devil but, with proper precautions we can continue to use this inexhaustible source of energy for the foreseeable future until a marvellous new source of energy (or several) is developed to the point where we do not have to depend on hydrocarbons.

    Regarding shipping, we must recognise that the best way forward for now is to continue to use heavier fuels in combination with exhaust gas recycling and scrubbers and, in fact, the overall carbon footprint of the use of such fuels is almost certainly less than the ‘2020’ fuels that are being mandated.

  2. Ethanol is made from grains, potatoes, mais, cane etc etc, i feel it is terrible that we are using foods and raw foods to burn in engines while many people in this worls suffer from hunger.
    Politicians and the so called “green thinking people” should be ashamed when seeing news like this, while we still have enough energy and time to think about other solutions.

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