- Maersk will pilot a containerized battery power system this year, the company announced Wednesday. According to a press release, Maersk executives hope a successful trial will further the company's commitment to achieving net-zero carbon operations by 2050.
- The 600 kwh battery system will be installed aboard the Maersk Cape Town in December, which will embark on a trial voyage along its route from West Africa to East Asia next year.
- The pilot "will show the potential of battery technologies to keep improving the performance of our vessels while also reducing fuel consumption in our non-propulsion electrical systems," Ole Graa, head of fleet technology at Maersk, said in the release. While battery-only propulsion systems are not yet commercially viable, the company noted it is interested in working with suppliers to leverage the technology as it matures.
When Maersk announced its commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it also acknowledged that carbon neutral vessels will need to be commercially viable by 2030, requiring significant investment in ship design innovations and alternative fuels.
Testing a battery-based solution supports "Maersk in moving towards further electrification of its fleet and port terminals," Søren Toft, Maersk's COO, explained in the release. Currently, Maersk has plans in place to begin electrification efforts at the Port of Los Angeles to support its autonomous cargo carriers with a network of charging stations and other infrastructure upgrades.
In its efforts to transition to low-sulfur fuel in compliance with IMO 2020 regulations, Maersk has been experimenting with a variety of other options.
According to a press release emailed to Supply Chain Dive, Maersk partnered with Lloyd's Register to determine the market viability of sustainable fuels and found the best positioned net-zero options for maritime shipping are alcohol (namely ethanol and methanol), biomethane and ammonia.
While these options are not yet commercially viable, Maersk believes they hold significant promise. Toft said Maersk "will spend 80% of our focus on this working hypothesis and will keep the remaining 20% to look at other options."
Maersk is partnering with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, BMW, H&M, Levi Strauss and Marks & Spencer to form the LEO Coalition to explore applications for an ethanol and lignin (a plant-derived biopolymer often sourced from paper mill byproducts) fuel called LEO. A Copenhagen University laboratory is working on developing it for maritime use and aims to move into testing on vessel engines in the second quarter of 2020. Pending its success, there are plans to begin scaling up LEO fuel production for broader testing.