Container ship operator A.P. Moller-Maersk and energy company Ørsted have a letter of intent to partner on a new ‘Power-to-X’ facility on the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast that would generate fuel for Maersk’s planned fleet of new methanol-powered vessels.

Ørsted proposes to develop a 675-megawatt installation capable of producing 300,000 metric tons of e-methanol annually, to supply Maersk’s recently ordered fleet of a dozen 16,000 TEU container vessels.

Best known in the U.S. for its offshore wind ventures, Ørsted says the Gulf fueling station would be powered with about 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy coming from onshore wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panel arrays.

“The biogenic carbon needed to produce e-methanol will be extracted through carbon capture at one or more large point sources,” according to Ørsted – a goal of low-emission technology to recycle carbon that would otherwise go to the atmosphere.

Ørsted says its aim is to commission the project in the second half of 2025, “making it by far the most ambitious project globally producing e-methanol at scale and a driving force in the decarbonization journey of the maritime sector. Final investment decision could be made in late 2023.”

“Over the past two decades, greenhouse gas emissions from the global maritime industry have risen sharply to account for around 2 percent of global energy-related emissions,” according to the Ørsted statement. “As the world races to fight climate change, the maritime sector urgently needs new zero-emission fuels at scale to reduce its climate impact.”

The Ørsted methanol would go into the new class of 1,148’x175.5’ Maersk ships, with a significant design departure from earlier container vessels. The bridge and crew accommodations will be forward at the bow, and the engine exhaust stack aft and offset to one side – an arrangement that Maersk says will increase efficiency handling containers in port.

“Unique to the industry, this design allows a 20% improved energy efficiency per transported container, when comparing to the industry average for vessels in this size,” according to a Dec. 8 announcement from Maersk. “Additionally, the entire series is expected to save around one million tons of annual CO2 emissions, offering our customers carbon-neutral transportation at scale on ocean trades.

“The making of this took nearly five years, and all while crossing uncharted naval design territory. To enable this new design, several challenges had to be addressed. Firstly, crew comfort had to be ensured with the accommodation placed in this more exposed location.

“Moreover, adequate hull strength was also a key parameter to safeguard, with the accommodation block normally working as a hull “stiffener” when placed further backwards. New arrangements for lifeboats and navigational lights had to be developed, plus new cameras to support the captain’s view when navigating.”

The new class will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries, with a dual-fuel engine system that operate on methanol and conventional low-sulphur fuel, capable of range to complete entire round trips, including Asia-Europe, on green methanol, according to Maersk.

In announcing the Gulf venture with Maersk, Ørsted officials said it will be the first U.S. anchor for the new technology.

“We commend Maersk’s clear and ambitious action, which has made the company a leader in the difficult task of reducing the climate impact of the maritime industry,” said Martin Neubert, deputy CEO and chief commercial officer at Ørsted. "Partnerships with large offtakers of green fuels, like Maersk, is an important part of Ørsted’s strategic journey, as we broaden our Power-to-X footprint across the world to become a global leader in renewable hydrogen and green fuels.”

“To transition towards decarbonisation, we need a significant and timely acceleration in the production of green fuels. Green methanol is the only market-ready and scalable available solution today for shipping,” said Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of fleet and strategic brands at A.P. Moller-Maersk. “Production must be increased through collaboration across the ecosystem and around the world. That is why these partnerships mark an important milestone to get the transition to green energy underway.”

The Power-to-X project in the Gulf Coast is the second green fuels collaboration between Ørsted and Maersk, after the potentially 1,300 MW Green Fuels for Denmark project in Copenhagen, which the two companies are partnering on with other large offtakers. Ørsted and Maersk will continue to investigate opportunities within green fuels together, as Maersk works towards its 2040 net-zero commitment.

In total, Ørsted’s Power-to-X development pipeline consists of 11 projects, including the 70 MW FlagshipOne project in Sweden, which Ørsted is developing together with Liquid Wind. FlagshipOne is targeted to be commissioned in 2024 and could become one of the world’s first large-scale sustainable e-methanol facilities. In addition to the project pipeline, Ørsted has entered into several strategic agreements with a variety of partners.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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