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The corporate venture arm of A.P. Moller - Maersk, Maersk Growth, has invested in Vertoro – a Dutch start-up focused on developing liquid lignin technology which can be used as a marine fuel.

Maersk’s minority investment will be used to further develop and commercialise Vertoro’s liquid lignin technology.

The investment will enable Vertoro to build a demo plant, which will become operational in 2022.The output of the demo plant will be used to develop marine fuels in partnership with Maersk as well as other applications for the materials and chemicals markets.

Maersk expects several fuel types to exist alongside each other in the future – though it has ruled out ‘transition fuels’, such as LNG - and has identified four potential fuel pathways to decarbonisation: biodiesel, alcohols, ammonia, and lignin-enhanced alcohols. Lignin is a class of complex organic polymers which form key structural materials in the support tissues of most plants.

‘Lignin fuels have a promising potential when it comes to decarbonising shipping,’ said Peter Votkjaer Jorgensen, Partner at Maersk Growth. ‘We consider Vertoro to be a leading start-up in the sustainable biomass-to-liquids space and we are excited to invest in the company and become part of the efforts to effectively scale up production of green fuels.

‘Furthermore, we believe that we can offer value beyond capital through the expertise and scale of the broader Maersk organisation.’

Founded in 2017, Vertoro produces liquid lignin exclusively from sustainably sourced forestry and agricultural residues by means of a patented thermochemical process. Like fossil oil, liquid lignin can be used as a platform for fuel, chemical and material applications.

‘Our goal is to offer competitive, sustainable products to cost and environmentally conscious customers worldwide; a model inspired by no-frills disrupters in other industries that today are among the most profitable in their sector,’ said Michael Boot, Co-founder & CEO at Vertoro. ‘This investment will bring us closer to reaching this goal in close cooperation with our committed team, our investors, and our partners.’

The investment in Vertoro is the third investment in the fuels of the future from Maersk Growth in less than two months. In September Maersk Growth invested in WasteFuel, a start-up focused on turning waste into sustainable aviation fuel, green bio-methanol, and renewable natural gas. This was followed by an investment in Silicon Valley-based Prometheus, which is developing a direct air capture-technology to enable cost efficient, carbon neutral electro fuels.

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