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Dimethyl Ether

10 September 2008

A consortium has been formed in Europe to demonstrate the production of dimethyl ether (DME) from biomass and its utilization as transportation fuel. Under the BioDME project, DME will be produced from black liquor through the production of synthesis gas and a final fuel synthesis step. The consortium partners include Chemrec, Delphi, ETC, Haldor Topsøe, Preem, Total, and Volvo.

Sweden’s Chemrec will provide the technology for gasification of black liquor, an organic-rich waste stream generated during the production of paper. DME will be produced from the synthesis gas using a Haldor Topsøe process. The plant—to deliver 4-5 tons of DME per day—will be located at the Smurfit Kappa paper mill in Piteå, Sweden. Production is scheduled to start in 18 months.

Volvo, the coordinator for the project, will develop fourteen DME fueled trucks for which Delphi and Volvo will develop fuel injection systems. Preem will implement the DME distribution and build four filling stations. Total will develop fuel and lube oil specifications. ETC, the Energy Technology Center in Piteå, will contribute its expertise on syngas and catalysts, and evaluate the performance characteristics of the DME plant.

DME, a gas with handling characteristics similar to propane, is compatible with compression ignition engines. DME can be produced from a number of feedstocks, including coal and natural gas, via synthesis gas. DME from forest residues through black liquor gasification is considered a potential “second generation” biofuel.

DME is currently used extensively as environmentally-friendly propellant gas in spray cans.

The BioDME project is co-financed by the partners of the consortium, EU’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7), and the Swedish Energy Agency with a total estimated cost of €28 million.

Source: BioDME