A consortium involving global industry members and major academic and research institutions has revealed its work in North America related to the development of renewable, high-energy density drop-in automotive fuels produced from various renewable feedstocks including biomass, municipal solid waste and waste plastics.
Ford Powertrain Engineering Research and Development Centre Canada (PERDC) in Windsor, Ontario, led by Dr. Jimi Tjong in conjunction with Dr. Werner Willems (Research & Advanced Engineering – Germany) and Ryan Delaney (Commercial Vehicles Engineering – USA) have been playing a critical role in the multi-discipline consortium to reduce the carbon footprint of future Ford vehicles by developing technologies related to renewable high energy-density drop-in fuels, including polyoxymethylene dimethyl ethers (OMEs). Like DME, OMEs are synthesized from methanol, which can be produced from various types of feedstock containing carbons such as biomass, municipal solid waste, and waste plastics via gasification and syngas conversion utilizing recycled CO2. Consortium members contributing technological expertise include Enerkem (Dr. Stéphan Marie-Rose), the University of Toronto (laboratories of Dr. Mohini Sain, Dr. Cathy Chin and Dr. Geoff Ozin), and the University of Windsor (Clean Combustion Engine laboratory of Dr. Ming Zheng). Enerkem is supporting the project with expertise in technology scale-up gained with the company’s pioneering technology for the production of liquid fuels from biomass, waste plastics and recycled CO2.
For industry members interested in downstream methanol fuel topics in general, and DME in particular, the OMEs present interesting potential that overlaps with that of DME, particularly as electrofuels (e-fuels). Professor André Boehman, Director of the W.E. Lay Auto Lab and the IDA’s Senior Vice President for R&D, notes that “not only do the OMEs share a production pathway with DME as they can be produced from methanol, but in purely physical terms OME0 is, in fact, DME. While OME1 (dimethoxymethane) is a compound too volatile to be blended into diesel fuel, the OMEs 3 to 8 have very clean combustion characteristics and could potentially serve as drop-in replacements for diesel fuel, without requiring the modified fuel supply and injection system involved with DME.”
Ford has designed and produced its own diesel engines since 2010, and from its Research & Advanced Engineering Centers in Europe and North America the company is leading numerous projects and initiatives related to the development and demonstration of low-carbon automotive fuels, including DME light-duty vehicle applications. These efforts include the recently completed xME Diesel project, the C3 Mobility (Closed Carbon Cycle Mobility) project, leadership of DME fuel standards development for both the DIN (German) and CEN (European) standards, and IDA industry initiatives related to European regulation and powertrain applications.