Oberon Fuels partners with SHV Energy to accelerate use of renewable DME
In the United States (US), California-based Oberon Fuels Inc., a producer of ultra-low-carbon, renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) transportation fuel and Netherlands-headed SHV Energy NV, the world’s largest distributor of propane fuel, are partnering to accelerate the use of rDME to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation fuel. With only a 20 percent blend of rDME, propane’s carbon intensity (CI) value is reduced from 83 gCO2e/MJ to 11 gCO2e/MJ.
Over US$30 million in private funding has been invested in Oberon Fuels since its founding in 2010. Additionally, the State of California in 2019 awarded Oberon a US$2.9 million grant to upgrade its existing DME pilot facility to demonstration scale and facilitate the first production of rDME in the United States (US), with a target production capacity of approximately 1.6 million (US) gallons (≈ 6.06 million litres) of DME per year.
By partnering with the world’s leading distributor of propane, we hope to further accelerate the use of rDME globally to help decarbonize the transportation sector and beyond, said Ruben Martin, CEO of Oberon Fuels.
Oberon Fuels sees this state-invested project as a key building block towards producing rDME statewide using California’s methane emissions. Using its proprietary small-scale process to convert biogas and industrial waste streams into high-performing, high-value molecules, the pilot plant in Brawley, California produces fuel-grade DME, which has been used by Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks, and Ford Motor Company for vehicle demonstrations around the world.
Innovation is at the heart of SHV Energy. Building upon our pioneering work launching renewable propane in 2018, we are excited by the opportunity to convert renewable and waste feedstocks to rDME. We believe rDME has significant potential to help us achieve our ambitions to be a leader in renewable energy, and we are looking forward to working with Oberon Fuels to bring this ultra-low carbon fuel to market, said Bram Gräber, CEO at SHV Energy.
Leverage SHV Energy collaboration
Building on this momentum, Oberon Fuels says that it will leverage the collaboration with SHV Energy in three ways:
- funding will augment the grant to further develop DME fueling infrastructure and vehicle development;
- SHV Energy’s technical resources will help test the use of rDME blended with propane, and;
- SHV Energy’s extensive global distribution network will facilitate greater use of rDME in numerous energy applications worldwide.
SHV Energy is the world’s largest liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distributor and provides liquefied natural gas (LNG) and bioLPG to consumers and companies without access to the grid.
Under ambient conditions, rDME is a gas but can be stored as a liquid under moderate pressure, which makes DME ideal for blending with propane. DME’s easy handling properties also make fueling and infrastructure relatively simple and inexpensive.
rDME’s dual benefits – its ability to reduce the CI of propane, as well as its ease of interoperability with propane infrastructure – make it an ideal option for the propane industry as it seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of an already clean, efficient option, said Rebecca Groen, Director of Biofuels at SHV Energy.
DME is approved as a renewable fuel under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), making it eligible for Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits when made from biogas by the Oberon process.
California Air Resources Board (CARB) has estimated that biogas derived from dairy manure and then converted to rDME by the Oberon process has a CI of -278 gCO2e/MJ compared to ultra-low-sulfur diesel which has a CI of 100 gCO2e/MJ.
This collaboration is a testament to the power of the rDME molecule as an innovative solution to address emissions and climate change. The very same rDME molecule can be used in multiple ways in the transportation sector to help fleets, businesses, and governments reduce their carbon footprint and their long-standing reliance on petroleum-based fuels, said Dr Rebecca Boudreaux, President of Oberon Fuels.