Volvo Trucks Runs Alt Fuel Tests

Gary S. Vasilash - April 3, 2012

Black liquor.

No, it is not some sort of trendy new beverage that is consumed in flaming form. Rather, the by-product of paper pulp production is used as the basis to make a bio-fuel known as Bio-DME (Di-Methyl-Ether).

The fuel is produced at a Chemrec gasification plant and is being used in a test program in which 10 trucks from Volvo Trucks are running on the fuel in Sweden, being used by outfits including PostNord and DHL.

Volvo Bio DME

According to Per Salomonsson, project manager, Alternative Fuels, Volvo, “This is the first time Bio-DME is being used as a vehicle fuel on a large scale and, following the first evaluation of the field test”—more than 400,000 kilometers have been clocked so far—“we can see that the Bio-DME trucks function very well on the road, way exceeding our expectations. The technology is reliable and the entire process is characterized by energy-efficiency, from production and distribution all the way to the vehicles themselves.”

They’ve calculated that if diesel fuel were replaced by Bio-DME, CO2 emissions would be reduced by some 95%. Which is no trivial matter, especially for firms like DHL, which have aggressive CO2 reduction goals by 2020.

Seems like there are two hurdles: infrastructure and incentives.

Said Salomonsson, “Bio-DME can also be made from other renewable raw materials but we feel this is a vehicle fuel with a great future. We’ve developed technology that makes it possible to use the fuel in commercial operations. The biggest challenge in the future is to establish a market and an infrastructure for a new vehicle fuel and this requires investment. Here society’s decision-makers have an important role to play in creating the essential preconditions by taking long-term decisions and developing incentives.”

The alternative fuel study will run throughout 2012.

One wonders: if black liquor works, what about aquavit?