Maersk and U.S. Navy Collaborate on Biofuel Testing Initiative

Maersk and the U.S. Navy said today that they are collaborating on a R&D program that will test the use of algae-based biofuel on ships with the goal of learning more about how biofuels can be best used to diversify fuel supply and improve environmental performance.  Maersk said that the tests will be conducted on the container ship Maersk Kalmar while en route from Northern Europe to India.

“The shipping industry needs to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas intensity in the coming decades. In the short term, we can gain a lot by focusing on improving fuel efficiency. In the longer term, we would like to see sustainable biofuels become a commercially available, low-carbon fuel,” said Jacob Sterling, Head of Climate and Environment at Maersk Line.

The 300 meter-long Maersk Kalmar has two key attributes that make the vessel suitable for biofuel testing.  First, the vessel has a dedicated auxiliary test engine, which reduces the risks of testing.  And, second, its fuels system has a special biofuel blending equipment and separate tanks.

During the month-long, 6,500 nautical mile voyage from Bremerhaven, Germany to Pipavav, India, the ship will use 30 tons of biofuel. Engineers and crew onboard are testing blends ranging from 7% to 100%. The team is also analyzing emissions data on NOx (nitrogen oxides), SOx (sulphur oxides), CO2 and particulate matter from the fuel use, along with effects on power efficiency and engine wear and tear. Tests are scheduled to conclude in early December with an analysis of results following soon thereafter.

“We expect to identify an optimal blend of distillate and biofuel that will meet the more stringent requirements of the International Maritime Organization’s forthcoming emissions regulations,” said David Anderson, Maersk Line, Limited’s technical representative for the project.

“The test is part of a journey to spur innovation in fuel R&D, diversify the fuel supply and improve environmental performance. It is a long-term goal Maersk shares with the Navy,” added Anderson.

Last week, the U.S. Navy announced an order for 450,000 gallons of renewable biofuels, the largest of ever of its kind.