Maersk Invests in U.S. Start-up to Develop Methanol Supply

Maersk invests in methanol production and supply
Maersk continues to make investments to support methanol (file photo)

Published Sep 8, 2021 5:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

To help establish its role as a first move in the adoption of methanol as the fuel for large ships. A.P. Moller – Maersk is also seeking to develop the supply chain and infrastructure needed to operate its new vessels. Three weeks after announcing an investment to support e-methanol sourcing in Europe, Maersk announced an investment in a California-based startup that is working to build the supply of methanol in the U.S. and Asia.

Maersk said it would be investing in the U.S.-based WasteFuel to develop green bio-methanol. Terms of the investment, which is being made through Maersk Growth, the corporate venture arm of A.P. Moller – Maersk, were not announced. WasteFuel is a start-up focused on turning waste into sustainable aviation fuel, green bio-methanol, and renewable natural gas.

“We know that sourcing an adequate amount of green fuel for our methanol-fueled vessels will be very challenging, as it requires a significant production ramp-up globally,” said Morten Bo Christiansen, VP and Head of Decarbonisation for A.P. Moller – Maersk. “Collaboration and partnerships are key to scaling the production and distribution of sustainable fuels, and we look forward to doing exactly that with WasteFuel; exploring potential future green solutions not just for our vessels, but also for Maersk aviation and trucking activities

Maersk said its investment will enable WasteFuel to develop biorefineries that utilize the most effective technologies available to produce sustainable fuels from unrecoverable waste that would otherwise degrade, and release methane and other harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Among the other investors in the company is NetJets, a private jet company owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. The jet company has an agreement with WasteFuel for the supply of green aviation fuel.

WasteFuel is also developing projects in Asia and the Americas including a biorefinery in Manila, Philippines, to produce low-carbon fuels. 

Maersk reiterated its confidence that green bio-methanol is one of the promising fuels of the future. They recognize the critical need for it to be scaled up to play an important role in decarbonizing supply chains within the next 10-15 years. 

In July, the shipping company announced the order for a pilot methanol vessel that would operate as a feeder vessel in Northern Europe. Weeks after saying the vessel would be the test for the new technologies, Maersk ordered eight large ocean-going container vessels capable of being operated on carbon-neutral methanol due for delivery in 2024. 

Maersk has however said that there currently are not sufficient production capabilities and the infrastructure needed to support large-scale shipping operations on methanol. In addition to the investment in WasteFuel, Maersk also identified partners to produce green fuel for its first vessel to operate on carbon-neutral methanol. REintegrate and European Energy will establish a new Danish facility to produce the approximately 10,000 tons of e-methanol that will be used to fuel Maersk’s first vessel.

The shipping company said that it believed the partnership could become a blueprint for how to scale green fuel production through collaboration with partners across the industry ecosystem.

Saying that sourcing an adequate amount of methanol would be a challenge, Maersk said it will operate the vessels on carbon-neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol as soon as possible.