|DME produced from biomass offers the most cost-effective avoidance of CO2 of transportation fuels under consideration, according to Volvo. (Data shown is for light-duty vehicles.) Click to enlarge.|
The Swedish Energy Agency has granted AB Volvo SEK 12.8 million (US$2.1 million) in support for field testing of the third-generation DME (dimethyl ether) technology for heavy-duty vehicles. The field tests with the 14 trucks is part of a project comprising demonstration of the entire technology chain, from biomass to fuel in the trucks and also includes distribution and tanking stations for DME. The first trucks are scheduled to be placed in traffic at the end of 2009.
In June 2006, the Swedish Energy Agency granted AB Volvo SEK 62 million (US$10.3 million) in support for development of third-generation DME technology. (Earlier post.) It is this technology that will be tested in the field trials. AB Volvo is also investing in the projects.
In addition to AB Volvo, Chemrec, Delphi, ETC, Haldor Topsoe, Preem and Total are participating in the project as partners. Chemrec, ETC and Preem are also receiving support from the Energy Agency.
The support now being granted by the Energy Agency supplements the support being sought from the EU’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7), in which contract negotiations are in the final phase.
DME is an LPG-like synthetic fuel that is produced through gasification of various renewable substances or fossil fuels. The synthetic gas is then catalyzed to produce DME. DME is particularly attractive for Sweden, as it is possible to use black liquor, a residual product from production of paper pulp, as the feedstock. Volvo highlights DME as offering the best well-to-wheel energy efficiency of an alternative fuel from a bio source.
DME is handled as a liquid in pressure vessels, at low pressure, similar to LPG. Only minor modifications—notably in the fuel injection and tank system—are required to convert a diesel engine to run on DME. If the fuel is produced from biomass, such as black liquor from the pulp industry, DME is CO2 neutral.
DME is already used today as propellant gas in spray cans, but since 2004, has grown rapidly in the energy sector. In just a few years, China has increased world production of DME tenfold, primarily as household energy.