Ford Europe leading project investigating DME and OME1 as low carbon, near zero particulate fuels; power-to-liquids pathways using CO2
12 September 2015
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”
Ok, it says monooxymethylene ether can be mixed with additives to produce OME1a diesel fuel but can it be mixed with actual petrol-diesel, or bio-diesel?
Posted by: ai_vin | 12 September 2015 at 08:57 AM
Synthesis gas to methanol to DME to synthetic or bio synthetic diesel.
Posted by: SJC | 12 September 2015 at 09:19 AM
Carbon Recycling International of Iceland manufactures renewable methanol that they call Vulcanol and is produced from carbon dioxide and hydrogen using renewable sources of electricity (hydro, geothermal, wind and solar). It can be used in the production of biodiesel or fuel ethers (DME, MTBE, OME etc.). Vulcanol from their current geothermal production plant reduces carbon emissions by more than 90% compared to fossil fuels.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 12 September 2015 at 01:36 PM
The future competition for battery-electric cars will be ICE cars running on low-carbon liquid fuels--keep the quick-fueling advantage and energy density of liquid fuels. Electric cars will compete in convenience (charge at home) and lower maintenance costs. Superchargers notwithstanding, many long distance drivers and truckers could be happy with DME or other low-carbon fuels.
Posted by: Nick Lyons | 12 September 2015 at 05:35 PM
Unfortunately, today Carbon Recycling International Vulcanol is very expensive, particularly with the cost of oil being very low. However, research at the Kanan Lab at Stanford (http://kananlab.stanford.edu/) is making progress in finding non-noble catalysts and low temperature processes in converting CO2 into CO.
Large Diesel trucks (Class 8) that cover long distances could definitely benefit from these low carbon fuels when it becomes competitive with FF diesel.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 12 September 2015 at 07:50 PM
Also use this fuel for silent house electric generator instead of been connected to the grid and a current meter. You can have this fuel delivered to your house once a year for few dollar instead of receiving a costly montly electric bill. These old inneficient big electric power plant and electric grid are too costly, need costly maintenance and sending a monthly invoice cost big money over time. These power plants are dangerous and need many costly employees. Cut all these costs and sell compact silent pollution free home electric generator of a.c 220 volts powered by this cheap fuel that can be made locally by automated machinery. A company of 15 peoples can serve a community of one million peoples, these employees are put in competition with similar fuel company and this fuel become a simple low cost convenience for your car, boat, personal helicopter and your house electricity. No more stock market trading where fuel prices are inflated on a daily besis, no more import, no more subsidies, no more taxs, no more costly carbon credits, no more subsidies toward fraudulent windmill and solar projects. More power in your car and motorcycle engine. No more toxic petroleum diesel fumes
Posted by: gorr | 12 September 2015 at 08:33 PM
Thanks for the knowledgeable commentary.
Posted by: Davemart | 13 September 2015 at 12:51 AM
Ok, so the reason I asked if it can be mixed with actual petrol-diesel, or bio-diesel is because unless we pay big bucks to change over all our refueling infrastructure there is going to be a mix of fueling stations along our highways and it would be of benefit to be able to put whatever is closest and/or cheapest in the same tank.
Posted by: ai_vin | 13 September 2015 at 08:13 AM
Gor, you said for hélicopter ? Forget it, energy density of DME is only half of gasoline, definitively not suited for flying machine where energy density is the key. DME like methane en methanol is the cleanest fuel as it doesn't contain carbon to carbon link, therefore avoiding sooth formation. But it contains a lot of oxygen therefore it's energy contains is low.
Posted by: Treehugger | 13 September 2015 at 09:07 AM
Thanks Davemart for your comment.
oxymethylene ether (OME) can be mixed with either petrol diesel or biodiesel. Man Truck & Bus AG, one of the largest diesel manufacturers is investigating adding oxymethylene to diesel (see "Oxymethylene Ethers as Diesel Fuel Additives of the Future", http://www.atzonline.com/Artikel/3/12692/Oxymethylene-Ethers-as-Diesel-Fuel-Additives-of-the-Future.html, Man also has a patent US20140223807). BASF has investigated mixing oxymethylene ethers in biodiesel (US20080216390).
DME is a gas like propane requiring pressurization and modifications to be used in diesel engines. OME is a liquid, though it has a lower cetane rating than diesel and would require additives or blending with diesel. OME would not require any changes to the current fuel infrastructure.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 13 September 2015 at 09:33 AM
Thanks gryf, that's good to know.
Now I have another question: Off hand I can think of 2 CO2 recycling ideas to make a *liquid* replacement for diesel, Ford's OME1a and Audi's E-diesel. (Are there any others?)
Of these two, which is the more efficient? Which get the most energy returned for energy invested? Remember, Audi's method doesn't require additives or blending with diesel. Or so I'm told.
Posted by: ai_vin | 14 September 2015 at 10:48 AM
There are very many companies/research institutes investigating "Green Diesel",e.g. Enerkem, Joule, Sunfire de, Climeworks, Naval Research Lab (NRL), IRENA, BASF, Carbon Recycling International, etc. (Audi is using Sunfire de, Joule, and Climeworks).
I am not a Chem Eng but It appears all of these processes are using the Fischer-Tropsch process to create either oxygenates like OME, DME, Methanol or Alkanes like Diesel or Gasoline ("e-Benzin"). While Alkanes have more energy density. Oxygenates have cleaner combustion.
The biggest challenge is competing with Petrol diesel particularly with crude oil at $50/barrel. Shell Oil is one company that has been successful at Fischer-Tropsch plants: the Bintulu, Malaysia gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility and the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar where they get Natural Gas at very low cost. The Pearl GTL plant produces cleaner-burning diesel and aviation fuel. GTL can use Natural Gas, Coal, BioMass, or H2 and CO from renewable energy.
GTL produced from renewable energy Hydrogen is currently very expensive and needs low cost catalysts and low temperature processes to be economical.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 14 September 2015 at 06:12 PM
Shell GTL diesel is made from natural gas and is clean.
There is one "expert" here who insists that it can not and should not be done.
Posted by: SJC | 15 September 2015 at 12:27 AM
"Clean" is relative. If you include fossil carbon as one of the things we should not be putting into our atmosphere then burning natural gas (either in its CH4 form or converted into a liquid) is something we should be doing less of. My view is that Shell's GTL diesel, when made from natural gas, is not clean - just cleaner. I personally wont say that "it can not and should not be done" only that it is preferable that it not be done if even cleaner options are available.
GTL produced from renewable energy Hydrogen may be currently very expensive but we have seen time and time again that there is a high cost to going cheap. Somebody always ends up paying the price for our discount culture.
Posted by: ai_vin | 15 September 2015 at 10:33 PM