The world’s largest container shipping company wants to go green

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Danish company Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said Tuesday it has ordered eight ships that will run on green methanol, a carbon-neutral fuel.

The company said the ships would be 10-15% more expensive than their typical ships, and would each cost around $ 175 million. But, he also called it an important step in developing a carbon neutral fleet by 2030, something shareholders and consumers are increasingly demanding.

Currently, container ships burn what is called bunker oil to get to where they need to go.

“And, of course, when you burn bunker oil, you produce oxides of sulfur, oxides of nitrogen and also particles,” said Surya Prakash, professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California. “With methanol, it can be very green because methanol is a very good transport fuel, the emissions are clean. It does not produce sulfur oxides. It doesn’t even produce nitrogen oxides.

But one of the keys to Maersk’s mission to become carbon neutral is to ensure that the methanol used is itself green, Prakash said. China produces a lot of methanol from coal.

Green methanol can be produced, for example, directly from biomass, which is waste and other organic material used as fuel. But that’s half the equation, according to Jeffrey Rissman of Energy Innovation, a non-governmental organization.

“You need both the fuel production – you need to be able to produce methanol without carbon – and then you need to have the ships equipped to burn it,” he said.

Maersk said the ships will be produced by South Korean company Hyundai Heavy Industries and will be able to run on both methanol and normal bunker oil – a kind of hybrid ship. The company said the companies they do business with have made significant contributions to the zero-carbon transition. It makes sense, said Dan Sperling, professor of environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis.

“Walmart, Amazon, you know, all these companies that are facing consumers, they are under a lot of pressure from shareholders as well as consumers to reduce their carbon footprint. And so they put pressure on the shipping companies, ”Sperling said.

The shipping industry has long trumped cars and trucks in the blame game on air quality, Sperling said.

“In places like Los Angeles, a lot of the pollution now comes from the ships that sit there in the harbor,” he said.

This is good for local air pollution and for general public health in towns near ports, Sperling said.


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