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Decarbonization specialist helps spearhead green transition for Denmark-based shipping firm


“The exciting thing about advanced biofuel is that it’s turning waste product into energy,” said Federica Conti, a decarbonization specialist helping to spearhead a green transition for Denmark-based shipping company Norden through her research and development of advanced biofuels. “In the future, we will see more ships powered on animal manure and sewage sludge.”

Conti has spent her academic career researching biofuels. Now the chemical engineer with a Ph.D. in energy technology is putting her knowledge into practice—working three days a week on Norden’s Fuel Efficiency & Decarbonization team, and two days as secondee to the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping. “It’s been an interesting journey going from research to application and figuring out the challenges of implementing biofuels in the ‘real world,’” Conti said.

A major milestone has been achieved with the launch of Norden’s first carbon-neutral freight transport using pure biofuel made from waste cooking oil. Now the challenge is to scale up the use of biofuels in the business and to find suppliers globally. Biofuels come from biomass and are carbon neutral because carbon emitted when burning the fuel has already been absorbed over the lifecycle of the biomass—meaning no additional CO2 emissions enter the atmosphere. “Advanced biofuels will play a major role in our green transition at Norden,” Conti said. “They make a big impact in terms of cutting emissions and are the best way forward for our business model. We charter the majority of our ships, so we need an eco-fuel that can work with existing engines.” At the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center, Conti is part of the Energy & Fuels team working with stakeholders across the shipping sector—including specialists from Ramboll, Total, Novozymes, and Cargill—to map global biomass availability and assess where future demand and production could be. “There’s currently a lot of biomass available worldwide, but it’s not being used,” Conti said.

Conti believes the coming few years will be a turning point in terms of decarbonization. “The next 10 years are crucial,” she said. “Shipping has been reliant on fossil fuels for many years and has expanded based on the supply of fossil fuels. Now, the only option for our planet is to implement new alternative solutions. In five to 10 years, I believe we will be able to bunker biofuels in the major bunkering hubs around the world. It can happen, and it will.”

Conti is a 31-year-old chemical engineer who was born in Genoa, Italy. She earned her Ph.D. in energy technology from Aalborg University in Denmark.

Copenhagen-based Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center is an independent, not-for-profit, research and development center with a mission to decarbonize the maritime industry. The center works across the shipping industry, collaborating with companies, academia and authorities. As a strategic corporate partner of the center, Norden shares the zero-carbon vision and is committed to collaborative climate action. Conti is one of two specialists from Norden’s decarbonization team contributing to projects at the center related to the development and implementation of future fuels and zero-carbon technologies.

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