Today Tachoblog can bring you another (almost) exclusive.  We’ve just been told by Volvo Trucks that they are now the first manufacturer in the world to use Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) as a vehicle fuel.

T2009 1751 427x270With the inauguration today (7 September 2010) of a DME filling station in Stockholm by fuel distributor Preem, the first five Volvo DME trucks in commercial operation are now taking to Sweden’s roads. Bio-DME is highly interesting as a biofuel since it produces no less than 95 per cent lower emissions of carbon dioxide compared with diesel.

Click below for the whole story – and some DME facts too…

“For a new fuel to have a chance of survival, it needs production, distribution and suitably modified vehicles. Now we have all three pieces of the puzzle in place in a complete, entirely unique field test,” Volvo Trucks’ Environmental Director Lars Mårtensson told Tachoblog.

The field test will take place over a two-year period and its aim is to demonstrate the potential for large-scale investment in DME produced from biomass. The project encompasses the entire technical chain from biomass to fuel, i.e. distribution, filling stations, trucks and haulage firms.

  • Volvo Trucks’ contribution to the project consists of FH trucks that will be tested by selected customers in different parts of Sweden.
  • Production of Bio-DME will take place in Chemrec’s plant. The Volvo Group, via its subsidiary Volvo Technology Transfer, is one of the owners of Chemrec.
  • Preem will build filling stations so that the trucks can be used in regular regional and local operations.
  • The haulage companies initially participating in the field test are Green Cargo, DHL, Posten Logistik and Volvo Logistics via J-Trans.

“From an over-riding perspective, Bio-DME is one of the most promising second-generation biofuels. It provides both high energy efficiency and extremely low emissions of greenhouse gases. These are the properties we value particularly highly when we analyse potential alternative fuels,” says Lars Mårtensson.

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This autumn, Preem will open additional filling stations in Göteborg, Jönköping and Piteå. In parallel, production of Bio-DME will be ramped up at the Chemrec plant in Piteå.
Introduction on a large scale requires long-term decisions

Evaluation of the field test and the authorities’ long-term decisions will determine whether large-scale production of Bio-DME will become a reality. In the EU the assessment is that Bio-DME could theoretically replace half of today’s diesel usage for heavy commercial transportation by 2030.

Speaking to Tachoblog, Lennart Pilskog, Director of Public Affairs at Volvo Trucks said, “The main challenges are to be able to work in a long-term perspective, produce a large quantity of biofuel, ensure distribution to a sufficiently large number of filling stations and at the same time promote demand.”

“In order to achieve this, it is necessary to have clear-cut guidelines from the authorities and coordinated, active cooperation between several players on the market.”

Now some facts about Bio-DME

When powering a diesel engine, Bio-DME delivers as high an efficiency rating and a lower noise level compared with traditional engines. Compared with diesel, Bio-DME produces no less than 95 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions. What is more, the combustion process produces very low emissions of particles and nitrogen oxides. All this together makes Bio-DME an ideal fuel for diesel engines.

DME is a gas, but it is transformed into liquid form at a pressure of just 5 bar. Handling it is straightforward – it is no different to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in that regard. DME can be produced both from natural gas and from various types of biomass. When it is made from biomass, it is known as Bio-DME.

In this project the Bio-DME is produced from black liquor, an energy-rich, viscous by-product of the pulp industry. Chemrec’s pilot plant in Piteå has the capacity to produce four tonnes of Bio-DME a day.

This project is financed by EU’s Seventh Framework Programme, the Swedish Energy Agency and participating companies.

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