Oberon Fuels, a producer of clean-burning dimethyl ether (DME) transportation fuel, has started production of the first-ever renewable DME (rDME) in the United States, the world’s sole commercial production of this molecule.
Because the features of rDME allow it to cost-effectively store and transport renewable hydrogen, this milestone enables Oberon to cut transportation emissions now while also advancing the development of the hydrogen economy and a net-zero carbon future. Oberon is converting waste methanol into rDME at its renovated facility in Brawley, California, as part of a $6 million initiative supported in part by a California Energy Commission grant. This is the first time this feedstock has been used to produce rDME on a large scale. Other potential feedstocks, in addition to waste methanol, include biogas from dairy waste, food waste, agricultural waste, and excess power and CO2, culminating in ultra-low carbon to carbon-negative DME.
“This is a critical step on the path to decarbonizing the transportation sector. Our innovative approach uses waste resources to create a flexible molecule that can reduce emissions from fossil fuels, as well as create entirely new, super-clean fuels.”Elliot Hicks, chief operating and technology officer and an Oberon Fuels co-founder.
Renewable DME can be used to reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation industry in a variety of ways, including as a diesel replacement, a propane blend, and an energy-dense, cost-effective means to carry renewable hydrogen. rDME can assist in overcoming some of the most significant challenges to the widespread use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel, including as access to renewable feedstocks, modular, scalable manufacturing, and energy-dense, cost-effective storage and transportation. rDME can be converted to renewable hydrogen at the point of usage once supplied. DME is a hydrogen-rich molecule that has the same properties as propane or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Using Oberon’s modular production method, it can be produced at or near renewable feedstock sources. This revolutionary technique to renewable hydrogen production has the potential to be similar to the impact that distributed, rooftop solar has had on decentralizing industrial electricity generation.
Moreover, because rDME is compatible with LPG, it requires minimal modifications to the existing global LPG distribution network and workforce, which have been safely handling and transporting similar molecules for more than a century.