An alternative, alternative fuel has taken another step toward marketability. Oberon Fuels Inc., a company pioneering fuel-grade dimethyl ether production (DME) in North America, reports that DME is now approved for use as vehicle fuel in the state of California.
“The use of fuels like DME will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve air quality and lead to a positive impact on California and the environment,” said Kristin Macey, director of the Division of Measurement Standards at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which issued the latest approval of DME fuel.
DME is a clean-burning, non-toxic fuel that can be derived from renewable sources. Its high cetane number and quiet combustion, as well as its inexpensive propane-like fueling system, make it an excellent, inexpensive diesel alternative, according to Oberon.
This latest approval builds on earlier approvals and ongoing work by other regulatory bodies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and ASTM International, and will help accelerate commercial adoption of this low carbon fuel, the company notes.
“The State of California’s approval builds upon the growing body of certifications that demonstrate DME is a low carbon fuel that meets both industry standards for performance and environmental standards for compliance,” said Dr. Rebecca Boudreaux, president of Oberon Fuels. “These approvals are a key step in increasing confidence among distributors, engine manufacturers and fleet owners that DME is ready for commercial markets, which will benefit Oberon as we build out a global supply of DME fuel.”
Last August, the EPA approved biogas-based DME for inclusion under the Renewable Fuel Standard and made it eligible for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) credits based on EPA findings that the fuel achieves a 68 percent reduction in greenhouse gases. And in February 2014 ASTM International released a specification for DME as a fuel, providing guidance for fuel producers, engine and component suppliers, and infrastructure developers on DME purity, testing, safety, and handling.
“This certification is a major step forward in developing the market for DME, especially for California-based heavy-duty fleets,” said Susan Alt, Volvo Group North America’s senior vice president of public affairs, which has been collaborating with Oberon on commercial vehicle demonstrations. “Volvo Trucks is continuing to invest in DME because it delivers diesel-like performance with propane-like handling and will provide a faster ROI for truck customers than other alternative fuels. Each certification increases their confidence that the fuel is good for trucks and the environment.”