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Chemrec CEO Urges Serious Consideration for DME at Low-Carbon Biofuel for North America

Speaking at the 2009 World Methanol Conference in Miami, Richard J. LeBlanc, CEO of Chemrec, strongly advocated increased efforts to promote the benefits of dimethyl ether (DME) throughout North America.

DME Advantages - Land use different biofuels
Studies of various land-use efficiencies for various biofuels and processes by Volvo AB show, in the lower two bars, the high efficiency of DME as a diesel substitute. Click to enlarge.

LeBlanc said a collaborative initiative among industry, end-users and government is required to bring the benefits of DME to the forefront of alternative energy discussion in North America, particularly in the US. He noted that DME is more widely produced and accepted in Europe and Asia.

Addressing methanol marketers at the conference, LeBlanc noted that converting methanol into DME offers the methanol industry a new market for its product. DME is synthesized from methanol, whether produced from coal, natural gas or biomass such as harvested forestry wastes.

Chemrec pioneered the Fuels-from-the-Forest biofuels biorefinery concept, which can produce BioDME. Chemrec is currently building BioDME production plants in Sweden. One, a demonstration-scale facility, is scheduled to begin biofuels production in 2010. The other, a commercial-scale plant, is to be in production in 2012. It will produce up to 40 million gallons of BioDME or other renewable motor fuels a year. (Earlier post.)

LeBlanc said a forestry waste BioDME biorefinery integrated with a pulp mill in Michigan or Wisconsin, for instance, would generate enough clean-burning, low-CO2 DME in a year to replace the diesel fuel to power the municipal truck and bus fleets of the cities of Milwaukee or Chicago, as well as non-governmental fleets such as delivery vehicles, for a year.

Truck manufacturer Volvo AB, a partner in the Chemrec demonstration scale BioDME project, plans to test several of its production diesel trucks modified to operate on BioDME throughout Sweden. Earlier studies by Volvo and others have shown that DME made from the Chemrec black liquor gasification process is, of all other tested biofuels, the highest in energy and land use efficiency (it uses non-food feedstocks) while being the lowest in green house gas emissions and overall clean combustion.

Founded in 1989, Chemrec AB along with its subsidiary Chemrec USA is a pioneer of the black liquor gasification biorefinery process and holds a patent on the technology. It has operating biorefinery plants in operation in Sweden and is actively pursuing opportunities with US pulp mills.



DME is a good fuel that stores as a liquid at moderate pressures and burns cleanly. It remains to be seen how widely it is adopted. It could be used in fleets of trucks and buses to get longer range with smaller, less expensive tanks and compressors than CNG.


An interesting option to produce more (up to 5x) agro-fuel per acre of land.

How does it compare with improved cellulosic ethanol production effectiveness?

Progressive but accellerated electrification of (200+ million) smaller vehicles could liberate enough liquid fossil or agro-fuel for large long haul trucks, inter-city buses, diesel-electric trains, ships and aircraft.

High speed electrified trains could replace most inter-city buses, long haul trucks, diesel-electric locomotives and most short range aircraft.



I think we need to do something major soon. I can see a day when there is an upheaval and OPEC decides to cut off one or more countries and we are one of them. I remember the 70s oil embargoes and gasoline lines. That had a major disruptive effect, even though it lasted a short time. It reminded people that we do NOT control our own destiny, others do.


When repeating the same song over and over again don't forget that more than 50% of electricity in US is made out of coal. So unless there is a solid plan to develop massive production of clean electricity in this country, the electric vehicles are just not helping that much in term of emissions.


That was one of the reasons for Exxon buying that large natural gas company, they see coal as on its way out and natural gas on its way in for generating electricity.


... and natural gas can easily be transformed to DME.


You go from synthesis gas to methane, methanol and DME. I favor methane because it can be transported through the natural gas pipes that we have now. Perhaps methanol and DME could be synthesized closer to the point of use in urban areas. Oil tankers, refineries and gasoline trucks are not the only way to get fuel to vehicles.

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