Clean Power for Diesel-Cycle Engines Part of Multi-Fuel Strategy,
Safeway to Test in California from Brawley Plant Starting This Month
Volvo is working with California’s Oberon Fuels on bio-derived dimethyl ether for diesel-cycle compression ignition engines, part of a multi-fuel Volvo strategy that also includes natural gas and biodiesel. Safeway will test the diesel alternative in two trucks with Volvo D13 engines converted for DME. Oberon’s first plant, for 4,500 DME gallons per day, is to commence production in Brawley, Calif. this month. this item was originally posted on June 6
“You can make DME from anything that contains methane,” Oberon president Rebecca Boudreaux said at a Volvo-Oberon event in Sacramento Thursday. Carbon dioxide in biogas feedstock actually aids the process, she says. Agricultural and food industry waste are other strong candidates.
“We will begin production in 2015 of DME trucks for the North American market,” said Göran Nyberg, North American sales and marketing president for Volvo Trucks. Costs have not be determined, he said. But Nyberg insisted that DME trucks will be competitive with conventional diesel on a life-cycle basis.
‘One of the World’s Most Promising and Sustainable Fuels
“DME is one of the world’s most promising and sustainable fuels for the heavy duty industry,” he said.
Volvo alternative fuels manager Ed Saxman said that DME’s energy content of 69,000 BTUs per gallon (compared with 130,000 BTUs for diesel) is sufficient to build daycab tractors with 600-mile range, with no need for the high pressure or cryogenically insulated tanks necessary for natural gas. DME tanks are similar to propane tanks, Volvo says – ambient-temperature vessels with pressure of about 75 psi will hold the fuel indefinitely.
“DME represents a less expensive and simple way to burn natural gas or biogas,” Saxman said.
‘A Surplus of Biogas’
“We actually have a surplus of biogas,” Rick McVaigh of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said at the Volvo-Oberon event. Oberon has been awarded a $500,000 grant by Valley Air (F&F, March 20).
DME engines run at lower ignition pressures than diesels, meaning engines will last longer. There is no soot, and hence no need for particulate filters. No EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) is necessary, but “we may need to use SCR” (selective catalytic reduction), Saxman said.
“We think it looks really good right now,” he said.
“The big need is a simple injection system that pulls twice as much as we inject today.” Hardened seats and valves may also be employed, or a lubricating fuel additive.
The fundamental beauty of the fuel, said Oberon’s Boudreaux, is that DME has no carbon-carbon bond, meaning its combustion yields no soot. She also noted that DME is fully non-toxic. It is used as a propellant in cosmetics, and even in asthma medications, said Oberon CEO Neil Senturia.
Oberon wants to establish a regional network of 4,500- and 10,000-gallon-per-day DME plants, each taking advantage of local feedstock availability – possibly natural gas from a pipeline, possibly local waste. Oberon’s key is a patented, skid-mounted, modular design for DME production, allowing for ready support of regional-haul truckers.
And, Senturia told F&F, the Oberon technology is available for license. “I’m willing to license it to everybody, the more the merrier.
“You don’t want to close the loop,” he said in Sacramento. “You want to expand it.”
Safeway will field two trucks with 13-liter Volvo D13 engines modified for DME. Product from Oberon’s first DME production facility at Brawley in the Imperial Valley, will also go to Martin Transport of Kilgore, Texas, a test customer since February.
Parent Martin Resource Management is a key Oberon Fuels investor.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels with Volvo-Oberon in Sacramento