Laura Maersk – the first container ship is already sailing on green fuel

Laura Maersk

In September 2023. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ceremoniously christened the world’s first container ship powered by green fuel, specifically e-methanol. As of February 2024. Another such ship will sail between Europe and Asia – from Hamburg to Shanghai and Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia. This is an important step toward adapting maritime transportation to the requirements of a zero-carbon economy, and Laura Maersk is just the beginning.

Laura Maersk – environmental trendsetter

The first green fuel container ship was produced by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea on behalf of Maersk, a Danish company specializing in integrated logistics. Laura Maersk measures 172 meters in length and is capable of carrying more than 2,000. containers (TEUs). It’s not much, but experts stress that the launch of the ship has set a precedent in the maritime economy and opened a new chapter in the history of transportation.

In fact, as early as February 9, 2024. another Maersk container ship, this time much larger, will set sail from South Korea to China and later to Europe. It is equipped with a dual-fuel engine that allows it to sail on traditional bunker fuel or methanol (possibly biodiesel). The unit has a nominal capacity of 16,000. containers, which is eight times more than Maersk’s Laura. In the first half of 2024. The Danish giant will launch two more container ships of the same size, and an additional four by the end of next year. A total of 18 large green fuel ships have been ordered – the largest will have a cargo capacity of 17,000. TEU.

Where do we get green fuel for container ships?

The e-methanol needed to operate Maersk’s new fleet is produced by European Energy, a company specializing in the development of solar and wind power plants, as well as renewable energy storage. In 2023. The company has built a complex near the Danish town of Kassø that includes a 300 MW solar park and two plants for the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis and e-methanol. The annual realization of the latter is expected to be 30,000. t, half of which will be used to cover Maersk’s container ship needs.

The green fuel produced by European Energy is the result of a process known as “Power-to-X.” Its essence is the use of energy from renewable sources to produce, for example, ammonia, fuel, gases or heat. As much as 90 percent. of the 360 GWh needed for the production plan will come from the company’s own solar and wind power plants. The rest will be bought externally. Importantly, the complex built in Kassø will generate surplus heat to power 3,300 family homes in the Aabenraa region.

However, in order to produce e-methanol, not only energy is needed, but also coal. The latter component comes from biogenic carbon dioxide captured at Danish biogas plants. Such a system ensures that the overall amount of carbon in the atmosphere will not increase, even when the e-methanol is burned in the container ship’s engine. The production facility in Kassø will use up to 45,000 annually. tCO2.

For clarification, it is worth adding that Maersk defines a fuel as green when it is associated with low or very low greenhouse gas emissions, by 65-80 percent. and 80-95 percent. lower than traditional fossil fuels. Over the next decade, according to European Energy officials, the entire liquid fuel production market will be dominated by the power-to-X process.

Maritime transport in the context of emissions reduction

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about 90 percent. of all goods in the world are transported by sea. Thus, it is a very important sector of the economy, which creates great potential, but also considerable challenges. W report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) For 2023, we read that maritime transport already accounts for 3 percent. global emissions, and this share has increased by as much as 20 percent in the last decade. Experts warn that without remedial steps, in 2050. Sectoral emissions can be as high as 130 percent. relative to emissions in 2008.

The need to decarbonize shipping has never been more pressing. Unfortunately, so far 98.8 percent. vessels are powered by fossil fuels, and an additional problem is the age of the global fleet – more than half of the vessels are more than 15 years old. Two of the world’s three largest state fleets (from Liberia and the Marshall Islands) have increased their greenhouse gas emissions over the decade 2012-2022 – only Panama has succeeded in reducing them so far.

Green fuel container ships, however, are just a drop in the bucket of needs. Indeed, a much greater burden on the atmosphere are the tankers and cargo ships, which in early March 2023. were responsible for a total of 474,000 emissions. tCO2. This compares with 203,000 for container ships. t, and an additional load of 168,000. t were other vessels, including passenger ships. UNCTAD members are formally calling on representatives of the maritime transport sector to identify potential pathways for transformation toward greener technologies. Decarbonizing the sector will require cooperation among regulators and the support of investors and financial institutions. This is especially true for small island countries that are economically dependent on shipping, but are unable to shoulder the expenses necessary to reduce emissions on their own.

Ambitious plans, or green fuel on the waves

As an optimistic fact, UNCTAD points out that 21 percent. among the vessels ordered today will operate on the basis of cleaner alternatives, such as liquefied gas, methanol or hybrid technologies. Maersk, as a pioneer in the market, has set an ambitious goal of zero emissions in 2040. The company declared that starting in 2021. will procure only new ships operating on green fuel, and from 2030. plans to produce 3 million tons of green methanol annually.

However, the decarbonization of the maritime transport sector has a much broader institutional dimension. July 2023. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted a revised strategy for reducing emissions generated by international shipping. It assumes a goal of zero emissions around 2050. By 2030. It is also to be reduced by 40 percent. The carbon intensity of international shipping, or the amount of emissions per transportation task. A detailed strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships is to be developed by 2028.

Independent steps have been taken by the European Union, expanding from January 2024. European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) by vessels of more than 5,000 GT entering EU ports regardless of their flag. The system will cover all voyages between European ports and 50 percent of the emissions generated by cruises that end or begin in the EU.

In conclusion, it is worth recalling that in 2015. The first passenger ferry to operate on the Baltic appeared on the so-called “Baltic Sea”. blue methanol (produced from blue hydrogen and capturedCO2), and according to Time magazine, there are currently plans to build another 100 green-fuel ships, including just ferries and cruise ships, in addition to the Maersk fleet. In addition to e-methanol, ammonia and hydrogen are also in play, and the former, according to the International Energy Agency, in 2050. will account for 20-60 percent. Maritime fuel market.

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