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Exclusive interview with Ilyas Muhammad, Senior Business Development Manager at A.P. Moller – Maersk

Ahead of our 3rd annual European E-Fuels Conference in Hamburg, on the 9th & 10th of November 2022 we sat down with our speaker, Ilyas Muhammad, Senior Business Development Manager at A.P. Moller – Maersk.

Mr. Ilyas Muhammad is Senior Business Development Manager at A.P. Moller – Maersk HQ in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is responsible for developing the supply of green fuels for Maersk container ships. Mr. Ilyas has Masters in Chemical Engineering from Seoul National University and 15 years’ experience in Process Engineering, Project Development and Technology Licensing while working at Haldor Topsoe, Shell, Samsung Engineering and Fatima Fertilizer.

Fossil fuel powered transports and logistics are responsible for the largest CO2 emissions on this planet.

  • How important is the transition to sustainable fuels for the second world’s largest shipping company?

Adding to the global climate and biodiversity emergencies, the world is now confronting an energy crisis. The need to act has never been greater – but nor has our potential and capacity to innovate and solve tough challenges at an unprecedented scale.
Global logistics -the industry we make part of- is part of the problem, emitting around 3.5 billion tons of CO2 every year and, we as the global integrator of container logistics want to be part of the solution. Carbon neutrality is a strategic imperative for Maersk.
Although the task of decarbonising global logistics is enormous, it is clear when we look to the future that this does not just pose challenges. It also brings along opportunities that businesses, customers, and decision makers must seize.
As an integrated logistics and transport company, we are ready. We have embarked on a journey to create a change that we believe is both responsible and the right path for our company, our customers and not least for the planet.
Back in January this year, A.P. Moller – Maersk (Maersk) announced our all-in climate strategy, moving our ambition to get net zero emissions in a decade from 2050 to 2040.  We have also set a road map across all our entire operations, including interim targets for 2030. We will reduce by 50% the carbon intensity of our ocean business, and 25% of all cargo to be transported on green fuel. We have also set similar ambitious targets for our terminals, air and inland operations.

  • What kind of fuel options are possible in the near future and beyond?

We need to transition our fleet from fossil fuels to green fuels. Going from fossil feedstocks such as oil and natural gas to green feedstocks and fuels means that green fuels will be produced from either biomass, renewable electricity or a combination of the two.

  • In the last years, we have looked at several green fuel options and investigated their technical, economic and safety viability. Maersk’s approach is built around science-based net zero climate impact, with two guiding principles:
  1. the first is that all greenhouses’ gases must be considered, e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
  2. The second is that the impact of these gases must be looked at over the entire lifecycle – from wells to vessels to what they leave in their wakes. Some fuels for example emit no carbon when burned but GHG emissions are created in their production.

Today, we are working on three main green fuels and pathways.

  1. We are already offering to our customers the only-market-ready biodiesel available. We use it for our ECO Delivery green shipping product, and we furthermore work on advanced biofuels.
  2. We are proactively entering into strategic partnerships to boost the global production capacity of green methanol , both bio-methanol and e-methanol.

Already next year, seven years ahead of planning- we will have the world´s first container ship operating on green methanol using a dual engine technology enabling it to sail on either methanol or traditional very low Sulphur fuel.

This 2100 TEU feeder vessel will fly the Danish flag and will be sailing in Northern Europe in @Sealand – A Maersk Company’s network, from the North Sea to the Bay of Bothnia.

A year after in 2024, we will introduce the first in a groundbreaking series of 12 large ocean-going container vessels capable of being operated on carbon neutral methanol. The vessels will have a nominal capacity of approx. 16,000 containers (Twenty Foot Equivalent – TEU).

  1. In addition to the above-mentioned, we are also working on green ammonia, but currently focus is mostly on technical and safety feasibility of using ammonia as a shipping fuel.

Maersk is not pushing one solution – we explore several pathways and expect a mix of different carbon neutral fuels to exist alongside each other, giving shipowners choice based on e.g., ship types, operational and geographical requirements.

In any case, the biggest challenge will be scaling these fuels to meet global demand, this will require collaboration across the value chain.

  • What are the advantages and if so disadvantages of these various options?

We are already using biodiesel, and the key advantage of biodiesel is that it can be used as a drop-in fuel in the existing vessels. However, biodiesel availability is limited, and its scalability is challenging due to limited supply of the feedstock. Moreover, there is a lot of competing demand for biodiesel from other industries. Green methanol is a solution where the vessel technology is available and there are vessels in operation which use methanol as a fuel. So, we see green methanol as a solution to be implementable at scale. A very important point is that methanol contains carbon and therefore, green methanol needs to be produced from biogenic CO2 which can be limited, and in the long run will require direct air capture. But still many biogenic carbon sources are available for the scale-up.

We also working on green ammonia and see great potential in this fuel. It is a zero-carbon fuel, scalable and may be cheapest in the long run. However, further developments for technology and safety feasibility are needed.

  • What kind of investments do you take to speed up this process?

To overcome the chicken and egg problem and send a clear demand signal for green methanol in the market, we ordered one 2000 TEU feeder vessel in June 2021 and 12 16000 TEU ocean going container vessels in August 2021. These vessels will be phased in during 2024-25 and will create demand of half a million ton of green methanol by 2025. In addition to this we will need around 6 million ton of green methanol by 2030 in order to achieve our 2030 milestone targets. We are establishing partnerships across the globe to secure the supply of green methanol for our future needs.

  • Is net zero emissions possible for the shipping transports and logistics?

It is possible but challenging.

We are committed to our net zero emissions goals, and we have a vision and plan to achieve these targets. Nevertheless, clarity on rules regarding e-fuels production and enforcement of level playing CO2 price to make green fuels competitive against fossil fuels will support achieving these targets.

This is the time to act. To remain relevant for customers and society in general, we all need to act now. 2020 must be the decade of action if we want to achieve our goals on time.

Regulatory reforms and financial incentives needed to enable rapid decarbonization of the global economy and local communities. We all need to move from commitment and pledges to solutions and actions including fuel production, investments on land in ports and around wind and solar facilities, finance mechanisms to accelerate the green transition in an inclusive and “just transition” way.

To view the latest conference agenda, click here:

If you would like to meet Ilyas Muhammad at the European E-Fuels Conference, register your attendance to the conference today!

For more information or to register for the conference, please contact Marcin Janecki at [email protected] or phone +48 61 646 7047

This interview was conducted with thanks to our Media Partner:

eFuel-Today is all about E-Fuels and talks directly to consumers about the positive impact by fossil-free and sustainable fuels in reducing CO2 emissions. The consumer-focused storytelling approach is what makes EFTD stand out. The initiative eFuel-Today was founded by the MEW, its members and partners in January 2021. It quickly became one the world’s leading communication platform for E-Fuels within the German language regions with millions of users reached so far. Frequently published videos and a high roll-out of editorial articles make eFuel-Today a fast moving, one of its kind storytelling machine. By informing customers with reliable, well curated and highly entertaining contents about climate-neutral synthetic and electricity based fuels (E-Fuels), we would like to enable people as well as politicians to take sound decisions to contribute to the climate goals.