June 14, 2019 3:30 PM, EDT

Oberon Receives Grant to Produce Ultra-Low-Carbon Transport Fuel

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Oberon Fuels announced it received a $2.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission to produce for the first time in the United States renewable dimethyl ether, a clean-burning, ultra-low-carbon transportation fuel.

Besides scaling up its plant and testing new feedstocks, the project will test modified diesel trucks fueled by rDME in the Imperial Valley and other Southern California locations. Oberon and its commercial partners will assess the technical feasibility and economics of converting renewable methanol, a byproduct of the pulping process, into rDME and developing an associated rDME fueling infrastructure.

Oberon Fuels logo

In 2013, Oberon Fuels’ pilot plant in Brawley, Calif., produced the first fuel-grade DME in North America, which has been used by Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks and Ford Motor Co. for vehicle demonstrations around the world.

While most of the focus on DME has been on its application as a replacement for diesel fuel, it also can serve as a cost-effective, easy-to-transport hydrogen carrier and as a blending agent with propane to reduce propane’s carbon intensity when DME is made from renewable feedstocks. Since rDME is an efficient hydrogen carrier, it can be transported to a hydrogen fueling station and then converted to renewable hydrogen to fuel zero-emissions vehicles, according to the San Diego company.

Oberon’s proprietary small-scale process makes DME from methane, carbon dioxide and/or methanol. — Transport Topics