Oberon Fuels announced commercial availability of a blend of propane and Oberon’s renewable DME (dimethyl ether). This blend replaces some of propane’s fossil-derived fuel with a renewable one, enabling up to a 60% reduction in carbon emissions for this popular fuel used in vehicles, forklifts, farm equipment, backyard grills and outdoor heaters.
Oberon partner Suburban Propane Partners, L.P., the third-largest propane supplier in the US, is the first company to make this more sustainable blended product available to its customers across Southern California.
Oberon’s rDME is a straightforward and scalable way for propane distributors and their customers to become more sustainable and will lead to overall emissions reductions from the propane sector which is a critical step to meeting global climate commitments.
The milestone builds on Oberon’s 2021 start of commercial production at its Maverick plant in Brawley, California. Oberon’s developments have benefited from California Energy Commission investment and Imperial County Workforce and Economic Development programs, helping to build local jobs and industrialization opportunities. Oberon is moving forward on design and site acquisition for its second, larger commercial plant and is evaluating a pipeline of follow-on projects and partnerships around the world.
Oberon Fuels’ pilot DME production plant in Brawley, California, 2 hours east of San Diego. In 2013, this facility came online and produced the first fuel-grade DME in North America, which has since been used by Volvo Trucks, Mack Trucks, and Ford for global vehicle demonstrations. The plant was upgraded in 2020 with a grant from the California Energy Commission. In June, 2021, Oberon produced the first renewable DME (rDME) in the United States.
Because rDME is similar to propane in its chemical structure, it can be blended with propane, transported in the same trucks, and used in similar applications, while notably reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, if used as a 20% blend in all propane worldwide, Oberon’s rDME could reduce GHGs by 750 million metric tons per year.
Renewable DME offers our customers a simple way to reduce emissions, without the need to make significant investments in new technologies to meet decarbonization standards, which is increasingly important to them. Blending Oberon’s rDME with propane is one of the key elements of our strategy to offer more sustainable options for the markets we serve and to support the overall energy transition with low carbon alternatives. We look forward to increasing both the blend rate and availability of the blended product in the coming months.
Each year, more than 170 million tons of propane are produced globally. While propane produces lower emissions than other fossil-based fuels, it is still responsible for 1.3 billion metric tons of GHGs each year, or more than 2% of total global CO2 emissions. Because Oberon’s rDME fuel is made from waste and other renewable resources (such as renewable methanol from paper mill waste, or biogas from local farms), it has low, or even negative carbon emissions.
Oberon Fuels has developed proprietary skid-mounted, small-scale production units that convert methane and carbon dioxide to DME from various feedstocks, such as biogas from dairy manure and food waste. This small-scale process circumvents the financial, infrastructure, and permitting challenges that large-scale projects confront. Oberon units have the capacity to produce 10,000 gallons of DME per day to service regional fuel markets.