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Oberon Fuels, Mack Trucks, and DSNY begin first demo of a DME-powered truck

In the United States (US), Oberon Fuels, a producer of clean-burning dimethyl ether (DME) transportation fuel, has announced the commencement of the first-ever customer demonstration of a DME-powered Mack truck, a "Mack Pinnacle". Oberon and Mack are working with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to run the vehicle at the Fresh Kills Landfill and evaluate performance and overall drivability.

A DME-powered Mack Pinnacle truck demonstration at the NYC Department of Sanitation (photo courtesy Oberon Fuels).

A DME-powered Mack Pinnacle truck demonstration at the NYC Department of Sanitation (photo courtesy Oberon Fuels).

According to a statement, the test is the first step in the city’s evaluation of both DME trucks and DME fuel as a potential long-term strategy to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and to achieve the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfill by 2030.

The goal of the demonstration is to gather data on the use of DME fuel and vehicles in urban, heavy-load fleets. At scale, such a programme could convert hundreds of thousands of tonnes of organic waste into clean fuel, reducing emissions, waste, and costs for cities while improving overall air quality and creating jobs.

It is an honour to work with Mack Trucks and DSNY to showcase the benefits of DME fuel to New York City. There is no better testing ground than NYC, and we are thrilled to partner with the city, said Oberon President Dr Rebecca Boudreaux.

DME an approved fuel

Oberon Fuels point out that DME fuel, which is approved for use in all 50 states, delivers the same exceptional performance as conventional diesel and burns cleanly without producing any soot. DME emits zero soot, which can lead to substantial health improvements in areas where air quality is a high concern.

When produced from local organic waste, DME can reduce GHG emissions by 68-101 percent compared to diesel as calculated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and recently published by US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. The EPA approved Oberon Fuels biogas-based DME fuel for inclusion under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) already in September 2014.

The GHG reductions make DME one of the first fuels for heavy-duty trucking that could result in a net CO2 reduction. DME engines are also easier to maintain, offer excellent cold weather performance, and run quieter than diesel counterparts.

The vehicle being tested is a Class 8 Mack Pinnacle model truck equipped with a 13-liter engine.

We are proud to call New York City one of Mack’s largest customers, and we are pleased to deliver the first customer-ready DME-powered Mack truck to DSNY. We are looking forward to working with DSNY and Oberon to evaluate the performance of the Mack Pinnacle as we run it through its paces, said Dennis Slagle, President of Mack Trucks.

Circular bioeconomy

Over the course of the demonstration, the truck will use Oberon’s fuel-grade DME, produced with the company’s proprietary catalytic distillation technology. The small footprint of Oberon’s production units allows them to be easily placed near local feedstock sources such as food waste, landfill gas (LFG), animal waste, sewage gas from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), providing cities an opportunity to deal with both their waste and energy challenges – local feedstock, local production, local consumption.

Currently, one-third of all waste on the curb in New York is organic. By recycling organic waste into DME fuel, New York and other cities can reduce landfill use, lower overall emissions, and improve overall air quality. The unique benefits of DME make it a great use of organic waste as part of any city’s overall sustainability plan.

DSNY has long been at the forefront of developing, testing, and deploying cleaner and more advanced heavy duty trucks. We are committed to doing our part to help foster innovation and technological advancements to improve fuel efficiency and promote more sustainable alternative fuels. DME fuel certainly has potential to be a long term option for us, and this initial test is an important first step in the evaluation process, said Deputy Commissioner Rocco DiRico.

The demonstration is expected to run in the first quarter of 2017 with results and analysis complete in mid-2017.

About Oberon Fuels and DSNY

California-based Oberon Fuels monetizes biogas and industrial waste streams by converting these feedstocks into higher valued commodities. Using its proprietary small-scale process, Oberon makes dimethyl ether (DME), a clean-burning diesel alternative, from methane and carbon dioxide. In 2013, Oberon Fuels’ pilot plant in Brawley, California produced the first fuel-grade DME in North America, which is currently being used by Mack Trucks and Ford Motor Company.

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) provides efficient management of solid waste and the development of environmentally sound long-range planning for handling refuse, including recyclables. DSNY operates 59 district garages and manages a fleet of more than 2 000 rear-loading collection trucks, 450 mechanical brooms, and 500 salt/sand spreaders. DSNY clears litter, snow, and ice from approximately 6 500 miles of City streets and removes debris from vacant lots as well as abandoned vehicles from City streets.

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