California-based Oberon Fuels says its new propane blend will help drive down emissions in North America.
The blend of propane and Oberon’s renewable DME (dimethyl ether), which now is commercially available, replaces some of propane’s fossil-derived fuel with a renewable one, enabling up to a 60% reduction in carbon emissions for the fuel used in vehicles, forklifts, farm equipment, backyard grills, and outdoor heaters, the company said.
Suburban Propane Partners, the third largest propane supplier in the U.S., was the first company to make Oberon’s more sustainable, blended propane product available to its customers across Southern California.
“Blending renewable DME (rDME) with propane can slash emissions and fits readily with existing storage, transportation, and fueling infrastructure,” said Rebecca Boudreaux, president and CEO of Oberon. “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, Calif. Oberon’s breakthroughs 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, according to the company.
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 instance, if used as a 20% blend in all propane worldwide, Oberon’s rDME could reduce GHGs by 750 million metric tons per year, Oberon claimed.
“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,” said Michael Stivala, president and CEO of Suburban Propane. “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 methanol from paper mill waste, or biogas from local farms), it has low, or even negative carbon emissions.