Oberon Fuels Inc., the first company to announce plans to commercialize biogas-based dimethyl ether (DME) fuel production in North America (earlier post), announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Oberon’s biogas-based DME for inclusion under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Oberon’s biogas-based DME is now eligible for high-value D3 (cellulosic) and D5 (advanced) renewable identification numbers (RINs) under the RFS. (Earlier post.) The EPA determined that biogas-based DME produced from the Oberon process resulted in an approximate 68% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to baseline diesel fuel.
RINs are numerical codes created with every gallon of biofuel domestically produced or imported into the US. RINs play the dual role of a renewable fuel credit to incentivize renewable fuel use, and a tracking mechanism to monitor the production, movement and blending of biofuels. The D-code (D#) of a RIN identifies the renewable fuel standard category for a particular fuel based on its projected greenhouse gas reduction requirement.
EPA currently has five RIN D-codes (D3, D4, D5, D6 and D7). D3 and D7 are for cellulosic biofuels with a GHG reduction requirement of 60%; D6 is for corn ethanol (GHG reduction 20%); D4 is for biomass-based diesel (50% GHG reduction); and D5 is for advanced biofuels, including sugarcane ethanol and biogas (50% GHG reduction).
One of the exciting attributes of DME is that, at its core, DME is a simple fuel. It requires a simple diesel engine and has simple propane-like handling properties.—Elliot Hicks, Oberon COO and co-founder
The transportation industry, particularly the heavy-duty sector, now has another option under the RFS for a domestically produced, renewable fuel.
Our customers are engaged in heavy-duty applications and need the power and torque of a diesel engine. Oberon’s DME offers that power without the need for the cryogenics or high compression associated with other diesel alternatives. We look forward to continuing our work with Oberon to demonstrate the benefits of this clean-burning, non-toxic diesel alternative for the heavy truck industry.—Susan Alt, Volvo Group North America’s senior vice president of public affairs
In 2013, Volvo Trucks announced that it would commercialize DME-powered heavy-duty commercial vehicles in North America, with limited production beginning in 2015. (Earlier post.)
The EPA’s approval of biogas-based DME is the latest milestone for the growing DME industry. In February 2014, ASTM International released a specification for DME as a fuel. ASTM D7901 provides guidance for fuel producers, engine and component suppliers, and infrastructure developers on DME purity, testing, safety, and handling.
California-based Oberon Fuels monetizes biogas and other hydrocarbon-rich waste streams by converting such feedstock into higher valued commodities. Using its proprietary small-scale process, Oberon makes DME and methanol 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 Volvo Trucks in its commercial demonstrations of DME-powered, heavy-duty trucks.