Oberon Fuels, SHV Energy partner to accelerate use of rDME

By Oberon Fuels | February 12, 2020

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 percent blend of rDME, propane’s carbon intensity (CI) value is reduced from 83 gCO2e/MJ to 11 gCO2e/MJ.

Over $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 U.S., with a target production capacity of approximately 1.6 MMgy. 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: 1) funding will augment the grant to further develop DME fueling infrastructure and vehicle development; 2) SHV Energy’s technical resources will help test the use of rDME blended with propane, and; 3) SHV Energy’s extensive global distribution network will facilitate greater use of rDME in numerous 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 decarbonize the transportation sector and beyond,” said Ruben Martin, CEO of Oberon Fuels.

Bram Gräber, CEO of SHV Energy, said, “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 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 U.S. EPA’s Renewable Fuels Standard, making it eligible for RINs credits when made from biogas by the Oberon process. California Air Resources Board 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,” 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,” said Rebecca Groen, director of biofuels at SHV Energy.

The mission of California-based Oberon Fuels is to decarbonize transportation by converting biogas and industrial waste streams into high-performing, high-value molecules. Using its proprietary small-scale process, Oberon Fuels focuses on the production of rDME from waste and 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 Co. for vehicle demonstrations around the world.

SHV Energy is the world’s largest LPG distributor, and provides LNG and bioLPG to consumers and companies without access to the grid. These cleaner energy sources help people to switch away from oil and solid fuels, improving their quality of life and the quality of their environment. The company services the needs of more than 30 million customers and is committed to working sustainably with communities, stakeholders and policymakers. SHV Energy operates in more than 25 countries on four continents under brands such as Calor Gas, Ipragaz, Liquigas, Primagaz, and Supergasbras. The U.S. brand Pinnacle Propane is based out of Texas and has expanded across the U.S. over the years. Its operations include bulk gas storage and delivery, cylinder filling, and community distribution gas systems.