Danish container shipping company Maersk has launched the world’s first container ship to run on green methanol in its fleet. The ship, the ‘Laura Maersk’ was christened in Copenhagen by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“This ship embodies Europe’s decision to be a pioneer in the fight against climate change,” von der Leyen said. “This event is a big deal, not only for Europe but for the whole world.”
25 ships ordered
The ‘Laura Maersk’, named after the first steamship, which was christened ‘Laura’ by Captain Peter Maersk Møller in the late 19th century, is a relatively small 172-meter container ship equipped with a dual fuel engine.
It was built in South Korea by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and can carry 2 136 standard containers. One tank of green methanol can travel about 11 000 km. It will be operational from October and mainly sail in the Baltic Sea.
“Green methanol is our preferred fuel because it is the only one that meets carbon neutrality requirements,” states Maersk chief executive Vincent Clerc. “Neither we nor the climate can afford to rest on our laurels or wait for other solutions to emerge in the late 2020s.”
The company, number two in container shipping, ordered 25 ships running on green methanol. Nineteen of them already in production should be able to sail by 2025, reducing annual CO2 emissions by about 2,3 million tons. The ‘Laura Maersk’ alone saves 100 tons of CO2 per day compared to a sister ship running on fuel oil.
Produce their own green methanol
Green methanol, also called biomethanol or e-methanol, is produced by mixing carbon dioxide (CO2) with green hydrogen, which is made by the electrolysis of water (hydrogen molecules separated using electricity) with renewable energy sources.
In fact, Maersk is also investing in the production of green methanol due to a lack of current supply on the market. In late 2022, for instance, it launched a huge project in Spain to produce this agrofuel.
With the support of the Spanish state, the carrier, under the banner of the newly founded company C2X, aims to create two production sites of two million tons of green methanol per year by 2030. Enough to decarbonize 10% of its boat fleet.
The group plans to produce internally at five or six sites worldwide. One of the locations selected by Maersk at this stage – besides Spain – is Egypt.
By 2030, Maersk would need an estimated 5 million tons of green methanol a year, by comparison with current production of less than 100 00 tons.
Shipping more polluting than air transport
Shipping is responsible for 2,89% of all greenhouse gas emissions, the International Maritime Organisation calculated. Globally, maritime transport pollutes more than air transport, according to the Higher Institute of Maritime Economics (Isemar).
Today’s large ships are fuelled by heavy bunker oil or marine diesel, with a few running on liquefied gas – all of them fossil fuels generating CO2.
Maersk, which sold its oil division to TotalEnergies in 2017, aims to be carbon neutral by 2040. The International Maritime Organization agreed in July to cut emissions to zero or near zero by 2050.