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Oberon Fuels, SHV Energy promote renewable DME to decarbonise transport

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Oberon Fuels, which produces ultra-low-carbon, renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) transport fuel and propane fuel distributor SHV Energy have teamed up to accelerate the use of rDME to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation fuel.

Using a 20% blend of the cleaner fuel, propane’s carbon intensity (CI) value can be reduced from 83 gCO2e/MJ to 11 gCO2e/MJ.

In 2019, the state of California awarded Oberon Fuels a grant worth $2.9 million (€2.7 million) to upgrade its existing DME pilot facility to demonstration scale and enable the first production of rDME in the US. The facility has a target production capacity of around 1.6 million gallons of DME per year.

Through this new partnership, Oberon will work with SHV Energy in a number of ways. Funding is expected to boost the grant to further develop DME fuelling infrastructure and vehicle development.

In addition, SHV Energy’s technical resources will help test the use of rDME blended with propane, while its global distribution network will enable greater use of rDME in multiple energy applications worldwide.

“By partnering with the world’s leading distributor of propane, we hope to further accelerate the use of rDME globally to help decarbonise the transportation sector and beyond,” said Ruben Martin, CEO of Oberon Fuels.

Bram Gräber, CEO at SHV Energy, added: “Innovation is at the heart of SHV Energy. Building upon our pioneering work launching renewable propane in 2018, we are excited by the opportunity to convert renewable and waste feedstocks to rDME. We believe rDME has significant potential to help us achieve our ambitions to be a leader in renewable energy, and we are looking forward to working with Oberon Fuels to bring this ultra-low carbon fuel to market.”

Under ambient conditions, rDME is a gas, however it can be stored as a liquid under moderate pressure, making it ideal for blending with propane. The fuel’s easy handling properties also make fuelling and infrastructure simple and inexpensive.

DME is approved as a renewable fuel under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standards, making it eligible for RINs credits when made from biogas through the Oberon process.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that dairy manure converted to DME by Oberon has a CI of -278 gCO2e/MJ compared to ultra-low-sulphur 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,” said Rebecca Boudreaux, president of Oberon Fuels. “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.”

“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,” noted Rebecca Groen, director of biofuels at SHV Energy.