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The Danish Maersk has invested in Waste Fuels, a Californian start-up focused on converting agricultural and municipal waste into fuel, to “develop the production of green bio-methanol in the Americas and Asia”.
In an announcement Wednesday, the world’s largest container shipping company said its investment will allow waste fuels to develop biorefineries and “produce sustainable fuels from non-renewable waste that would otherwise degrade.”
The company is invested through its venture capital arm, Maersk Growth. Its price was not disclosed in the ad. Maersk’s head of decarbonization, Morten Bo Christiansen, will join the spent fuel board as part of the deal.
“We know that the supply of sufficient quantities of green fuel for our methanol-fueled vessels will be very difficult, as it requires a significant increase in production on a global scale,” he said.
Collaboration and partnership were “key to increasing the production and distribution of sustainable fuels,” said Christiansen.
In February, it was announced that private aviation company NetJets, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, had made “a significant investment” in waste fuel.
In a statement at the time, NetJets said it made a commitment to purchase at least 100 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from used fuel over the next 10 years.
The idea of reusing waste for other uses is not new. In 2014, for example, a ‘biobus’ operated by sewage, food waste and other commercial liquid waste was used to transport passengers in the South West of England between Bristol Airport and the city of Bath.
Elsewhere, Reading, a large city west of London, has a fleet of more than 58 biogas buses using biomethane from livestock slurry and food waste.
The US Department of Energy describes waste as “a large and underutilized set of raw materials for the production of fuels and renewable products.”
The environmental footprint of maritime transport is significant. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2019, international shipping – a key force in the global economy – was responsible for around 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
As the world’s major economies strive to reduce emissions to meet net zero targets, the shipping industry will need to find new ways to reduce emissions from their operations.
Methanol appears to be the key to Maersk’s future plans. Last month, the company said it had secured a supply of “green” e-methanol, which it described as “the world’s first container ship to run on carbon neutral fuel.”
In August, Maersk also announced that it was ordering eight large ocean-going vessels capable of running on “carbon neutral methanol”.