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Maersk Makes Third Start-up Investment in Potential Future Fuel

Maersk makes investments in start-ups developing new fuel technologies
(file photo)

Published Oct 14, 2021 6:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the third time in just two months, A.P. Moller – Maersk, the parent company of the shipping giant, has invested in a developmental company working on alternative fuels as part of the company’s efforts to become a leader in the decarbonize the shipping industry. These investments, made through Maersk Growth, the corporate venture segment of the company, highlight the addition of the green fuels category as an additional sub-investment theme under the company’s overall umbrella of supply chain investments.

Maersk expects several fuel types to exist alongside each other in the future and at this stage is seeking investments in multiple paths to achieve the future fuel transition. The company reports it has identified four potential fuel pathways to decarbonization, focusing on biodiesel, alcohols, ammonia, and lignin-enhanced alcohols.

The newest investment is in a Dutch start-up company Vertoro, which is focused on developing liquid lignin technology that can be used as a marine fuel. Maersk Growth is making a minority investment that will be used to further develop and commercialize Vertoro’s patented liquid lignin technology. 

“We consider Vertoro to be a leading start-up in the sustainable biomass-to-liquids space and we are excited to invest in the company and become part of the efforts to effectively scale up production of green fuels,” said Peter Votkjaer Jorgensen, a partner at Maersk Growth. “Furthermore, we believe that we can offer value beyond capital through the expertise and scale of the broader Maersk organization.”

Founded in 2017, Vertoro produces liquid lignin exclusively from sustainably sourced forestry and agricultural residues by means of a patented thermochemical process. Like fossil oil, liquid lignin can be used as a platform for fuel, chemical, and material applications. Vertoro plans to build a demo plant, which will become operational in 2022. The output of this plant will be used to develop marine fuels in partnership with Maersk as well as other applications for the materials and chemicals markets.

“Our goal is to offer competitive, sustainable products to cost and environmentally conscious customers worldwide,” said Michael Boot. Co-founder & CEO of Vertoro. He said the company is using a “model inspired by no-frills disrupters in other industries that today are among the most profitable in their sector. This investment will bring us closer to reaching this goal in close cooperation with our committed team, our investors, and our partners.”

The investment in Vertoro is the third investment in potential future fuel technologies made by Maersk Growth in less than two months. In September, they invested in WasteFuel, a start-up focused on turning waste into sustainable aviation fuel, green bio-methanol, and renewable natural gas. The other investment is in Prometheus, which is developing a direct air capture technology to enable cost-efficient, carbon-neutral electro fuels.