Ford Europe leading project investigating DME and OME1 as low carbon, near zero particulate fuels; power-to-liquids pathways using CO2
Ford Motor Company is leading a €3.5-million (US$3.9-million) research project to investigate the use of alternative fuels that could offer customers the power and performance of modern internal combustion engines with environmental benefits comparable to an electric vehicle.
The German government is co-funding the three-year project that will test the first cars to run on dimethyl ether (DME) (earlier post), commonly used as a non-toxic propellant in aerosol spray gas, and monooxymethylene ether (OME1). (OME1 is made from methanol on a commercial scale and has a cetane number of 38; it can be mixed with additives to produce OME1a diesel fuel (CN 48).)
(The comparison to the electric vehicle is based on estimates which factor in the CO2 emissions resulting from fuel production, with the DME-powered vehicle figure calculated from the use of renewable energy to generate the DME fuel, and the electric vehicle figure calculated from electricity generated from renewable resources. The comparative figure for diesel is 113 g/km CO2.)
In a 2011 study, a team from MAN Truck & Bus noted that:
CO2 can be recycled into methanol by reaction with electrolysis hydrogen. Methanol is a petrol and not suitable as a diesel fuel component, but can be dehydrated to form dimethyl ether (DME) with a high cetane number.
DME burns in the diesel engine without producing soot and offers the basis for extensive NOx reduction inside the engine. However, as a liquefied gas in pressure tanks, DME has considerable disadvantages compared with conventional fuels in the established fuels logistics process. That is why the search is on for high-molecular and therefore liquid ethers that can be produced form methanol.
The simplest representatives of these compounds are the easily accessible oxymethylene ethers (OME).—Lumpp et al.
Both ethers, which will in the project power cars based on the Ford Mondeo, offer the potential for extremely low particulate emissions and enhanced fuel efficiency. They can be generated from fossil natural gas or bio-gas or through a power-to-liquids process that uses renewable sources such as solar or wind power together with CO2 captured from the air.
This technology is being investigated in a parallel project together with RWTH Aachen University researching the viability of different DME generation methods, looking at conversion efficiency, estimated fuel prices and infrastructure aspects.
Both DME and OME1 produce almost no particulates, and also share characteristics with diesel fuel that are expected to make conversion of diesel engines possible with comparable performance. It is estimated that DME from renewable energy sources could offer well-to-wheel emissions of about 3 g/km CO2.
Like liquefied petroleum gas, DME must be stored in a slightly pressurized tank. OME1 can be stored in a conventional tank system. The DME-powered engines are expected to benefit from almost soot-free combustion, higher thermal efficiency and excellent cold start properties.
For the project Ford European Research & Innovation Center, Aachen, Germany, will work together with RWTH Aachen University, the Technical University of Munich, FVV, TUEV, DENSO, IAV Automotive Engineering, and San Diego, California-based Oberon Fuels (earlier post). Through the FVV—the leading forum for joint research projects on engine technology in Germany—the project findings will be shared with key-players within the automotive industry.
The growth of the world’s population is putting ever-increasing demands on energy and especially fossil fuels. Alternative, renewable fuels like methyl ethers will play a pivotal role in the future. DME is safe, burns cleaner than conventional diesel, and most importantly is versatile. The energy generated from solar, wind and other renewables can be stored within the fuel itself, and this enables DME and OME1 to be used across a range of applications.—Andreas Schamel, Ford’s director Global Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering
Björn Lumpp, Dieter Rothe, Christian Pastötter, Reinhard Lämmermann, Eberhard Jacob (2011) “Oxymethylene Ethers As Diesel Fuel Additives Of The Future”MTZ Volume 72, Issue 3, pp 34-38 doi: 10.1365/s38313-011-0027-z
Jakob Burger, Markus Siegert, Eckhard Ströfer, Hans Hasse (2010) “Poly(oxymethylene) dimethyl ethers as components of tailored diesel fuel: Properties, synthesis and purification concepts,” Fuel, Volume 89, Issue 11, Pages 3315-3319, doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2010.05.014
Wolfgang Maus, Eberhard Jacob “Synthetic Fuels – OME1: A Potentially Sustainable Diesel Fuel”