U.S. DOE Funds Dimethyl Ether Projects to Decarbonize Transportation


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) has awarded more than $4 million in funding to test novel applications of dimethyl ether (DME) as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels. Oberon Fuels, a company producing renewable DME (rDME) in the U.S., is a supporting partner.

The funded projects include University of Wisconsin Madison (“Efficiency Mixing Controlled Compression Ignition Combustion of Propane DME Blends”) and WM International Engineering LLC in Darrien, Ill. (“High Pressure Fast Response Direct Injection System for Liquified Gas Fuels Use in Light-Duty Engines”).

“This new round of funding for DME builds on its June 2021 award and is continued validation of renewable DME as an enabling molecule to decarbonize transportation,” says Rebecca Boudreaux, Ph.D., president and CEO of Oberon Fuels. “Oberon Fuels generates value from waste resources, creates family-wage jobs in rural areas, and reduces both pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through our rDME. We are honored to partner with the recipients of DOE awards.”

The funding was provided through the Low GHG Vehicle Technologies Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment Funding Opportunity Announcement to research, develop and validate technologies that use DME to increase the efficiency of direct-injection engines. The partners will use the funding to develop new technologies to deliver efficient engine operations with near-zero emissions.

Renewable DME significantly reduces emissions and carbon intensity when used in place of traditional fuels in three applications: as a blending agent with liquified petroleum gas (LPG, or propane); as a diesel replacement in compression ignition engines; and as an energy-dense, cost-effective means to transport and store renewable hydrogen.

When produced using the Oberon process, the California Air Resources Board has calculated that dairy biogas-based rDME has an estimated carbon intensity (CI) value of -278 compared to ultra-low-sulfur diesel which has a CI around 100 gCO2e/MJ. Renewable DME used as a transportation fuel can decarbonize the transportation sector while greatly reducing the emissions of particulate matter, greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

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