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Renewable dimethyl ether plant planned

| By Scott Jenkins

Engineering design is underway for a new plant for making renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) from biogas produced by agricultural digesters or derived from landfills. Project developer Oberon Fuels (San Diego, Calif.; is basing the new plant on its existing reactive distillation technology for making DME from methanol.

In the process, raw biogas (methane and CO2) is first reformed to obtain synthesis gas (syngas; CO and H2). The syngas is catalytically converted into MeOH, which then enters the company’s reactive distillation column to produce renewably sourced DME. Central to the process are Oberon’s proprietary skid-mounted, modular production units, each capable of producing 10,000 gal/d of DME from waste products.

Elliot Hicks, Oberon co-founder, says the company’s rDME will initially be sold into the propane market. “When blended with propane, the rDME reduces the carbon intensity of the propane, helping to meet renewable-fuel requirements in places like California,” Hicks says.

In the future, rDME may have applications in the hydrogen economy, and as a renewable diesel-fuel substitute. “rDME is useful as a hydrogen storage agent,” says Hicks, and as engines for burning DME are further developed, rDME will be a renewable substitute for diesel fuel in off-road, heavy-duty agricultural vehicles and others, Hicks says.

renewable dimethyl ether

Source: Oberon Fuels