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DME (dimethyl ether) is a clean, colorless gas that is easy to liquefy and transport. It has remarkable potential for increased use as an automotive fuel, for power generation, and in industrial and domestic applications for heating and cooking.
DME can be derived from many sources, including renewable feedstocks (biomass, waste, agricultural and forest residues) and fossil fuels (natural gas and coal).
DME has been used for decades in the personal care industry (as a benign aerosol propellant), and is now increasingly being exploited for use as an ultra-clean alternative fuel and energy carrier.
Like LPG/Propane, DME is gaseous at normal temperature and pressure, but changes to a liquid when subjected to modest pressure or cooling. This easy liquefaction makes DME easy to transport and store. This and other properties, including a high oxygen content, lack of sulfur or other noxious compounds, and ultra-clean combustion make DME a versatile and promising solution in the mixture of clean renewable and low-carbon fuels under consideration worldwide.
How is DME Produced?
DME can be produced from a variety of abundant sources, including natural gas, coal, waste from pulp and paper mills, forest products, agricultural by-products, municipal waste and dedicated fuel crops such as switchgrass.
World production today is primarily by means of methanol dehydration, but DME can also be manufactured directly from synthesis gas produced by the gasification of coal or biomass, or through natural gas reforming. Among the various processes for chemical conversion of natural gas, direct synthesis of DME is the most efficient.