Dimethyl Ether (DME) to Power Heavy Vehicles – A Clean-Fuel Trend Set by Volvo but Yet to be Followed by Industry Majors

In the continuing quest for alternative fuels—especially in the transportation sector where heavy vehicles guzzle hundreds of gallons of diesel every year—dimethyl ether (DME) holds a veritable solution. According to the findings of a report published by Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global DME market stood at US$4.46 billion as of 2013, and is pegged to top US$ 8.37 billion by the end of 2020, exhibiting a 9.4% CAGR between 2014 and 2020. The numbers make a strong case for global dimethyl ether market.

This probably explains why Volvo Trucks North America choose to use DME over options such as propane and natural gas. And in doing so, it has set a precedent of sorts for other vehicle makers.

Browse Market Research Report of Dimethyl Ether Market: 

Volvo Roots for Dimethyl Ether for its Trucks, EPA Approval for the Fuel Strengthens Prospects

Volvo, one of the largest truck manufacturers in the world, partnered with US-based chemical company Oberon Fuels to formulate DME that could be used commercially to power trucks over long distances. The results have been encouraging – and have paved the way for some game-changing developments in the alternative fuel industry.

Although the recent drop in the prices of diesel have caused companies to cut back on their emphasis on alternative fuels, Volvo continues to stay firm on its argument that DME could become a mainstream fuel thanks to the many advantages and operational efficiencies it offers. In September 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave its stamp of approval to Oberon Fuels’ DME (which is biogas-based) fuel, clearing the way for the fuel to be included in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

EPA Cites Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emission as Greatest Advantage of Dimethyl Ether

During its examination, the EPA came up with several factors that tilted the balance in favor of DME. These factors will likely drive the interest in DME further. The EPA said that biogas-based DME that was submitted for approval by Oberon Fuels showed 68% less greenhouse gas emission as against baseline diesel fuel. The other attributes of dimethyl ether, such as its simple composition and ease of handling (comparable to propane) and the ability to work efficiently with a simple diesel engine, all heighten the appeal of DME.

Buoyed by these developments, Volvo has decided to continue working closely with Oberon Fuels and Martin Energy Services to make the fuel available to the commercial vehicle industry.

What Potential Does DME Hold for the Trucking Industry?

The use of dimethyl ether as a trucking fuel could prove surprisingly beneficial – from the standpoint of both performance and profitability. Here are a few advantages of dimethyl ether that the trucking industry is betting on:

· DME features a high centane number and boasts extremely low carbon monoxide (CO) and NOx emissions

· DME is biodegradable and it does not produce sulfur when it burns; it also burns without producing soot

· The handling properties exhibited by DME are similar to propane; however, the former efficiently burns in a compression ignition engine, making it a suitable candidate to substitute diesel with very minor modifications to engine design

Browse Press Release of Dimethyl Ether Market: 
However, thus far, Volvo has been the only major name in the trucking industry to have taken concrete steps in exploring dimethyl ether (DME) as a fuel for trucks of different kinds. The lack of competition in this particular space could prevent the dimethyl ether market from expanding rapidly and bringing more consumers in its folds.

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