According to a report by Fast Company, the first-ever cargo ship running on green methanol has started its maiden journey this week. The methanol used to power the ship is made from methane captured from food waste at landfills.
The owner of the ship, Maersk, has pledged to only buy new ships that can use environmentally friendly fuels. They had ordered this methanol-powered ship two years ago and have ordered 25 more of these ships. Additionally, they are retrofitting older ships to use the same green fuel. By the end of the decade, around a quarter of Maersk’s ocean cargo ships will be using green fuels. Currently, the ship is sailing from South Korea to Denmark.
Green methanol can reduce a ship’s emissions by 65-70 percent, which is a significant environmental benefit considering that the shipping industry is responsible for emissions similar to the airline industry.
However, green methanol does not completely eliminate all emissions. Nevertheless, Maersk decided to adopt it as an alternative fuel because it is currently a practical and efficient option. Urgent action is needed from everyone to meet the Paris climate goals.
“There’s this fear, I think, of making the wrong bet or getting it wrong somehow,” Morten Bo Christiansen, who leads decarbonization at Maersk, told an audience at the TED Countdown Summit last week, according to Fast Company.
“And of course, in the ideal world, we would spend a decade figuring out all the pros and cons and what is best. But we need to address this problem now.”
Maersk aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 and plans to use a combination of retrofits and new ships to reach this target.
“We have set an ambitious net-zero emissions target for 2040 across the entire business and have taken a leading role in decarbonising logistics. Retrofitting of engines to run on methanol is an important lever in our strategy. With this initiative, we wish to pave the way for future scalable retrofit programs in the industry and thereby accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to green fuels. Ultimately, we want to demonstrate that methanol retrofits can be a viable alternative to new buildings,” said in a press release last month Leonardo Sonzio head of fleet management and technology at Maersk.
“In 2021, we ordered the world’s first methanol-enabled container vessel following a commitment to the principle of only ordering newbuilt vessels that can sail on green fuels. Concurrently, we have explored the potential in retrofitting existing vessels with dual-fuel methanol engines.”
Other companies are also following suit, with five major carriers purchasing the new methanol ships. It is noteworthy that the number of such ships being developed has increased from none just three years ago to a total of 120 in progress today.