Will LEO be shipping’s new green fuel?

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Copenhagen University is currently running the laboratory-scale development of a lignin ethanol blend called LEO as a potential marine fuel

A papermaking byproduct often burned in pulp mills as fuel could be shipping’s green new fuel. Called lignin, it’s an organic copolymer found in wood — and it’s what makes newsprint turn yellow, which is why it is removed in making higher grades of paper.

Ship operators Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with 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 using LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol, as a shipping fuel.

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,” saus Søren Toft, Maersk Chief Operating Officer. “Initiatives such as the LEO Coalition are an important catalyst in this process.”

“Our customers’ ambitions on sustainability are increasing rapidly, and we applaud this development,” says Craig Jasienski, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Chief Executive Officer. “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.”

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 for 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 at the LEO project is a valuable commitment.

Helena Helmersson, Chief Operating Officer at H&M Group says that “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 reduce 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.”

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