Volvo Trucks Runs Alt Fuel Tests

Black liquor.

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.

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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?