Volvo heavy trucks to run on CO2-free ‘black liquor’

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Starting next year, Volvo Trucks will be the first truck manufacturer to conduct comprehensive field tests of Bio-DME — a next generation biofuel said to produce close to no carbon dioxide emissions.

In the long term it has the potential to replace 50 percent of today’s diesel used for transport operations in Europe.

The aim of the field tests — involving, among others, the EU, the Swedish Energy Agency, fuel companies and the transport industry –is to assess the potential of DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) as a vehicle fuel.

Is said to have both high energy efficiency and low greenhouse gas emissions "all the way from the source to the wheel."

DME is a gas but it is transformed into liquid form. It is straightforward to handle in a process similar to that required for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The most common application today is as a propellant in spray cans.

The raw material used is "black liquor," an energy-rich, highly viscous by-product of the pulp industry. With Bio-DME instead of diesel as a fuel, carbon dioxide emissions are cut by 95 percent. 

No-carbon Volvo trucks will be testing
in Europe over the next two years.

Volvo Trucks is offering 14 Volvo FH trucks with 440 hp D13 engines that will be tested by selected customers at four locations in different parts of Sweden between 2010 and 2012. Fuel company Preem will build filling stations so the trucks can be used in regular regional and local operations.

"Behind the wheel, it’s business as usual. Performance and driving properties are exactly the same as in the diesel variant. The difference and the major benefit with Bio-DME lies in its low carbon dioxide emissions," says Mats Franzén, Product Manager Engines at Volvo Trucks.

The combustion process produces very low emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides. Therefore, the company says, a simpler system can be used for aftertreatment of the exhaust gases.

DME is filled in liquid form and stored in pressurized tanks in a leak-proof system. The pressure keeps the fuel in liquid form all the way to injection. Common rail technology is used to create the optimum high injection pressure. The lower energy content of DME, just over half that of diesel oil, is compensated by fitting larger tanks.

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