DME Production Surges in Sweden, the Master of Biofuels
As discussed in previous posts, dimethyl ether (DME) is one biofuel that can reduce emissions and complement fossil fuels in targeted regions. One leader of DME production is Sweden. Sweden’s Volvo has tested trucks that run on DME for several years, and Chemrec has proven itself to be an innovator in the development as DME as a viable clean energy product. Chemrec’s latest success is its partnership with Domsjo Fabriker’s refinery in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden (pictured above left). With the assistance of SEK 500 million grant (US$75 million, or 55 million euros) from Sweden’s Energy Agency, the plant will produce two clean and renewable biofuels, biomethanol and bioDME. The investment, which will eventually reach SEK 3 billion (US$450 million, or $330 million euros), the dual product plant will eventually reach a production capacity of 100,000 tons of bioDME or 140,000 tons of biomethanol. Domsjo, a pulp and paper company that has long acknowledged opportunities in biorefining, has worked on entering an agreement with Chemrec the past several years. Sweden, naturally rich in forest products, has long struggled with the resulting waste from the paper industry. Now that toxic product, often referred to as black liquor, can now be a fuel source for Sweden’s transportation system. The project is expensive and will take some time to reach a solid return on investment. But with the risks of rising fossil fuel prices and peak oil, it is far more cost-effective to take on challenges like this now than to dither. Chemrec’s and Domsjo’s agreement, if all goes as planned, should replace the equivalent of 30 million tons of diesel oil, and have the capacity of fueling 2000 heavy trucks annually. Finally, in the future, if other companies can replicate Chemrec’s gasification technology and allow it to scale, the cost of clean energy products should only decrease in the future. To those who say that government should get out of the private sector’s way, projects like these demonstrate that sometimes the private sector could use a lift, especially for capital intensive initiatives like this Swedish venture.
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