Oberon Fuels partners with SHV Energy to accelerate use of renewable DME (rDME) for low-carbon propane blends
Oberon Fuels, a producer of ultra-low-carbon, renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) transportation fuel, and SHV Energy, the world’s largest distributor of propane fuel, are partnering to accelerate the use of renewable DME to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation fuel. With only a 20% blend of rDME, propane’s carbon intensity (CI) value is reduced from 83 gCO2e/MJ to 11 gCO2e/MJ.
Using a proprietary small-scale process, Oberon Fuels focuses on the production of renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) from waste and/or renewable resources. Oberon Fuels’ pilot plant in Brawley, California, produces fuel-grade DME in North America, which has been used by Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks, and Ford Motor Company for vehicle demonstrations around the world.
More than $30 million in private funding has been invested in Oberon Fuels since its founding in 2010. Additionally, the State of California in 2019 awarded Oberon a $2.9-million grant to upgrade its existing DME pilot facility to demonstration scale and facilitate the first production of rDME in the US, with a target production capacity of approximately 1.6 million gallons of DME per year.
Oberon sees this state-invested project as a key building block towards producing rDME statewide using California’s methane emissions.
Building on this momentum, Oberon will leverage the collaboration with SHV Energy in three ways:
Funding will augment the grant to further develop DME fueling infrastructure and vehicle development;
SHV Energy’s technical resources will help test the use of rDME blended with propane, and;
SHV Energy’s extensive global distribution network will facilitate greater use of rDME in numerous energy applications worldwide.
Under ambient conditions, rDME is a gas but can be stored as a liquid under moderate pressure, which makes DME ideal for blending with propane. DME’s easy handling properties also make fueling and infrastructure relatively simple and inexpensive.
DME is approved as a renewable fuel under the US
Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuels Standard, making it eligible for RINs credits when made from biogas by the Oberon process. California Air Resources Board (CARB) has estimated that dairy manure converted to DME by the Oberon process has a CI of -278 gCO2e/MJ compared to ultra-low-sulfur diesel which has a CI of 100 gCO2e/MJ.
This collaboration is a testament to the power of the rDME molecule as an innovative solution to address emissions and climate change. The very same rDME molecule can be used in multiple ways in the transportation sector to help fleets, businesses, and governments reduce their carbon footprint and their long-standing reliance on petroleum-based fuels.—Rebecca Boudreaux, Ph.D., president of Oberon Fuels
rDME’s dual benefits—its ability to reduce the CI of propane, as well as its ease of interoperability with propane infrastructure—make it an ideal option for the propane industry as it seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of an already clean, efficient option.—Rebecca Groen, Director of Biofuels at SHV Energy