Free the Ocean Blog

First green methanol-powered cargo ship sets sail!

Welcome aboard! The first container ship powered by green methanol – a cutting-edge fuel extracted from food waste in landfills – is ready to cut through the ocean waves.

Green Innovation with Green Methanol

The shipping giant Maersk is leading the maritime transition to clean energy. Two years ago, they placed an order for a ship that sails not on traditional fossil fuels, but on green methanol. This sustainable fuel is made from methane gas but that’s not all! It can also be synthesized using renewable electricity and green hydrogen.

The pioneering ship is embarking on its maiden voyage this summer, from South Korea to Denmark. Maersk has another 25 of these eco-vessels on order and is beginning to retrofit its existing fleet to run on the same green fuel.

By the end of the decade, the company—home to over 700 ships, with 300 under its ownership—intends to ship a quarter of its ocean cargo using green fuels!

What makes green methanol so great? This eco-friendly fuel can reduce a ship’s emissions by an impressive 65-70%. Considering that shipping contributes to roughly a billion tons of CO2 emissions annually (akin to the airline industry!), the environmental potential is truly vast.

A Journey towards Zero Emissions

While green methanol is making waves, it can’t completely eliminate emissions. But many other promising technologies like ammonia, liquid hydrogen, and electrification are being developed to further reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Morten Bo Christiansen, who heads up decarbonization at Maersk, spoke about the shipping industry’s role in meeting the Paris climate goals at the TED Countdown Summit. He emphasized the urgency of addressing the climate challenge, stressing that the company wants to reach net-zero emissions by 2040—a full decade ahead of the industry’s overall goal.

Reflecting on how far we’ve come, Christiansen highlighted that just three years ago, no such ships were even on order. Today, five other major carriers are also hitching a ride on the green wave, with 120 eco-ships in the pipeline.

The next hurdle is scaling up fuel production and lowering its cost, currently 2-3 times more than conventional fuels. But as Christiansen noted, even if the extra cost is passed down, the impact could be minimal—for a pair of sneakers making a trans-oceanic voyage, it could only mean an extra five cents. A small price to pay for a cleaner, healthier planet.

More FTO Blogs