Recover Your Password

Return to News > Release | Volvo Oberon Safeway

Volvo and Oberon Fuels Reveal Plans for DME in North America

Volvo Trucks to Commercialize DME-Powered Vehicles for North America

Volvo Trucks today became the first manufacturer to announce plans to commercialize dimethyl ether (DME)-powered heavy-duty commercial vehicles in North America. As the latest step in its comprehensive “Blue Power” alternative fuel strategy, Volvo revealed ongoing U.S. customer field testing of trucks powered by DME, and demonstrated the technology after an announcement at the California State Capitol.

DME mirrors the exceptional performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel, and burns clean without producing any soot. It can be made from a variety of sustainable domestic sources, as well as from North America’s abundant supply of natural gas, and therefore has the potential to significantly reduce energy dependency. Converting natural gas to DME is an innovative way to address many of the distribution, storage and fueling challenges otherwise presented by natural gas as a heavy truck fuel. Volvo announced plans to begin limited production in 2015 of DME-powered vehicles.

“With the addition of DME-powered vehicles to our previously announced CNG and LNG offering, Volvo’s Blue Power line-up will offer the industry’s most comprehensive approach to the developing North American alternative fuel market,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing.

Nyberg was joined at the California state capitol by Cliff Rechtschaffen, Gov. Jerry Brown’s senior energy advisor, and by executives from Oberon Fuels, the first company to announce plans to commercialize DME fuel production in North America.

Volvo decided to invest in DME technology and introduce it to the North American market because of the numerous benefits DME offers as a heavy-truck fuel. Its high cetane number delivers performance and efficiency comparable to diesel, and it packages densely enough on a truck to support long range transports, or to allow room for vocational equipment on the frame. It is an excellent compression ignition fuel which, like diesel, requires no separate ignition mechanism. Unlike LNG, it does not require cryogenic temperatures; it is handled and stored like propane, with tank pressures of only 75 psi (vs. 3,600 psi for CNG). It can safely be stored on-site.

Because DME produces no soot, no diesel particulate filter (DPF) is necessary. In addition to the weight savings from the removal of the DPF, DME tanks are considerably lighter than comparable CNG or LNG tanks and considerably less complex.


DME VNL D13 Truck
Volvo VNL 300 with D13 DME engine

 Media release
         Volvo Trucks
         6 June 2013

 Media release
         California Governor's Office of 
         Business & Economic Development
         6 June 2013

Oberon Fuels Launches First North American Fuel-Grade DME Production

The first-ever North American production units for clean-burning, fuel-grade dimethyl ether (DME) have been developed by Oberon Fuels, and will go online in June in the Imperial Valley region of southern California. The production facility and Oberon’s cooperation with Volvo Trucks in North America and Safeway, Inc. were announced at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento today. The three companies are partnering to test DME performance in heavy-duty commercial Volvo trucks driven by Safeway for operations in the San Joaquin Valley.

Oberon Fuels has developed an innovative process that cost-effectively produces DME, an economically- and environmentally-advantageous fuel, on a small scale. DME, which has been proven as an energy source in many countries around the world, is a non-toxic, sulfur-free and clean-burning (generates no particulate matter) fuel that offers a clean alternative to diesel fuel for trucking operations. To date, it has not been used as a transportation fuel in North America, in part because of the cost of developing large-scale production facilities.

Oberon’s small-scale production allows it to take advantage of smaller volume feedstocks that typically go unused. The units’ modular design makes it easy to deploy to remote stranded-gas locations that are otherwise costly to access, and also to industrial operations where waste CO2 streams can be captured to increase output. Huge reserves of natural gas make efficient conversion to DME a natural next step toward promoting greater energy independence for the United States while reducing environmental impacts of the transportation sector. In addition, feedstocks—such as shale gas and biogas from animal, food, and agricultural waste—can be converted to DME and monetized using the Oberon process. Because DME can be produced from a variety of methane- containing feedstocks, it has the potential to be a renewable resource. Since production is not dependent on the price of crude oil and the Oberon process uses multiple feedstock sources, the price of DME is expected to be more stable than that of diesel.

Oberon CEO Neil Senturia says, “This is one of those rare opportunities that comes along when we have the opportunity to both do good and do well. This fuel can actually make a difference in not only America’s energy independence, but also our environmental impact on the planet. We welcome partners who want to get on board with us now to change the face of alternative fuels for the future.”

Volvo Trucks in North America has announced its intention to commercialize DME-powered vehicles for North America by 2015 and is working with Oberon in field tests. Working with both Volvo and Safeway, Inc., one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America, Oberon Fuels has received support from several governmental programs and agencies, including the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California GO-Biz office.

“It’s exciting to have a global leader like Volvo Trucks partnering with California companies to develop innovative technology in the Golden State,” said Kish Rajan, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “The State of California continues to attract the most dynamic companies in the world, and GO-Biz looks forward to helping Volvo and Oberon maximize the benefits of DME as a commercial transportation fuel.”

A representative from Governor’s Brown’s office, Senior Energy Advisor Cliff Rechtschaffen, also spoke at the press conference about the promising development of clean-burning DME as a commercial transportation fuel. California has the nation’s most stringent regulations regarding air pollution from vehicles.

Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing, says, “We believe DME has great potential in the North American market – and when produced from biomass, it can provide a 95 percent reduction in CO2 compared to diesel. Our field tests with Oberon Fuels will allow us to show the performance value of this fuel in heavy-duty trucking and prove our role as a leader in alternative fuel and driveline development.”

The Brawley plant is presently starting up and is expected to be producing fuel-grade DME in June. This unit will produce 4,500 gallons of DME per day; subsequent units will have the ability to produce up to 10,000 gallons per day. These small-scale Oberon production units enable the development of regional fuel markets that service local customers engaged in regional haul, bypassing the need for a national infrastructure. Initial investment to construct an Oberon unit is low compared to the construction of a large-scale plant. Therefore, capital expenditures are in sync with market growth. As the DME market develops, more small-scale production units will be deployed in each region, and new regions will be added across North America.

President of Oberon Fuels Rebecca Boudreaux, Ph.D., says. “DME is an excellent alternative fuel because it is a cost-effective diesel replacement that also has the potential to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of heavy- duty transportation. The Oberon process utilizes two greenhouse gases – methane and carbon dioxide – and converts them to a clean-burning fuel, DME. This is a monumental step forward for the transportation sector and the environment.”


Oberon Fuels President Rebecca Boudreaux and IDA Chairman Emeritus Theo Fleisch at DME 5 Conference in April

Volvo Trucks and Safeway to Test Bio-­DME-­Powered Vehicles in North America

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, 6 June 2013 | Volvo Trucks will partner with Safeway Inc., one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America, and Oberon Fuels to test heavy-­duty commercial vehicles powered by dimethyl ether (DME) produced from biomass. The project received $500,000 in funding from California’s San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) and will be the second customer field test conducted by Volvo Trucks in the U.S.

“We look forward to further validating DME technology for the trucking industry with Safeway and Oberon,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North American Sales & Marketing. “We believe the fuel shows great potential for the North American market, and when produced from biomass, it can provide a 95 percent reduction in CO2 compared to diesel.”

Two DME-­powered Volvo VNL models equipped with a Volvo D13 engine will run in the San Joaquin Valley region of California in Safeway’s commercial operations using Oberon-­produced DME. Oberon is the first company to announce plans to commercialize DME fuel production in North America, and has developed skid-­mounted, small-­ scale production units that cost-­effectively convert biogas and natural gas to DME.

One of the most significant benefits of DME is that it can be made from a variety of sustainable biomass feedstocks like food, animal and agricultural waste, as well as from natural gas. “

The Oberon process enables previously wasted resources to be converted to clean-­burning DME,” said Neil Senturia, CEO of Oberon Fuels.

“DME is an exciting fuel because it has the potential to improve air quality, which is a major challenge in the San Joaquin Valley region,” said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the SJVAPCD. “New technologies, like DME-­powered commercial vehicles, are greatly needed, which is why we chose to provide funds for this project.”

Volvo has already been successfully testing trucks in the U.S. powered by DME, and is the first OEM to announce plans to offer DME-­powered vehicles in the North American market. Safeway decided to participate in the field tests because of the company’s positive experience with Volvo trucks, as well as the company’s focus on sustainability. “Safeway is very interested in alternative fuels, and we currently run Volvo trucks in our fleet,” said Tom Nartker, vice president of transportation at Safeway. “We decided to test Volvo DME technology in our fleet because it is a natural fit with our sustainability strategy.” The addition of DME-­powered vehicles expands Volvo’s alternative fuel product range, which already includes compressed natural gas (CNG)-­powered Volvo VNM and VNL model daycabs.

 Media release
       Volvo Trucks 
6 June 2013