Limiting Oil Spill Damage by Using Dimethyl Ether as a Fuel

A massive oil spill of over 21,000 gallons near Refugio State Beach has prompted a huge response from local government. Officials have asked for patience as 300 workers on 18 boats work through the night to tackle the spill, with the cause still unknown. What is certain is a Plains All American Pipeline burst and is covering fish and marine animals in harmful oil.

You may see some progress early on, maybe in the first week or two. ... But these types of things continue on for perhaps even months.

Capt. Jennifer Williams of the U.S. Coast Guard

January 28, 1969: Santa Barbara, California

A blowout on a Union Oil owned offshore rig coated 35 miles of Santa Barbara County beaches in more than 3 million gallons of oil, causing birds, fish and mammals to die in huge amounts. It was this harrowing sight, along with the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire, that instigated the modern environmental movement.

When President Nixon made an appearance in Santa Barbara, he was met by thousands of angry residents and the rallying cry “Get oil out!”

A Plague of Spills

April 9, 2015: Vancouver, British Columbia

[From the National Post] Although localized, the bunker-fuel spill of grain ship MV Marathassa this month raised serious doubts over how well the coast guard could contain a spill of larger magnitude. At 2,800 liters the spill this month was small-scale, but the revealed large deficiencies on the part of the coast guard.

There are currently a large number of double-hulled tankers waiting to be approved and built, that could potentially transport 120,000 tonnes each of diluted Alberta bitumen to Burnaby. Currently, only about 50 oil tankers depart from Port Metro Vancouver but if the Trans Mountain project goes ahead that number could rise to over 400.

A report commissioned by the city analyzed two scenarios where oil was spilled in Burrard Inlet, on in May and one in October. It found that the economy could suffer more than twice the economic loses in spring during peak tourist season than in October. If the spill happened in may then total losses could range from $380 million to $1.23 billion, not including the costs of recovery and cleanup.

January 14, 2015: Longueuil, Quebec

[From the Montreal Gazette] On Wednesday, January 14th, about 28,000 liters of diesel fuel spilled at the city’s water filtration plant. Although most of the fuel went into the St-Lawrence River, due to a crack in the sewer line some of it ended up in the water treatment plant. Even though this was a serious problem it was still several hours until the provincial environment department was notified. The water advisory affected about 300,000 people in Vieux Longueuil, St-Hubert, Boucherville and St-Bruno-de-Montarville.

Reporting by the Montreal Gazette (Jan 15, 2015) gives voice to South Shore residents who were dissatisfied with how the Longueuil water department handled the spill. Several residents have taken up legal action, and on Monday a lawyer representing them filed papers requesting permission to sue the city for around $29 million, or $100 each for the 288,100 residents affected by the water contamination caused by the spill.

Although the leak was noticed by municipal officials about 4 a.m. last Wednesday, the city didn’t put out a no-drinking advisory until about 10 a.m. on Thursday. This is far too to wait to notify residents says Lawyer Jacky-Éric Salvant. The lawsuit could also extend to Environment Canada and the private company that owns the Longueuil pumping station, he said.

The Best Available Technology

The Clean Air Act requires that certain facilities employ Best Available Control Technology to control emissions. Clean Air Act of 1990, section 169(3), 42 U.S.C. § 7479(3)

...an emission limitation based on the maximum degree of reduction of each pollutant subject to regulation under this Act emitted from or which results from any major emitting facility, which the permitting authority, on a case-by-case basis, taking into account energy, environmental, and economic impacts and other costs, determines is achievable for such facility through application of production processes and available methods, systems, and techniques, including fuel cleaning, clean fuels, or treatment or innovative fuel combustion techniques for control of each such pollutant.

Many of the problems caused by the release of regular diesel and bunker fuel could be solved by use of Dimethyl Ether. It can be used to replace petroleum diesel in all but a few applications, and is the best available technology for fuels that generate electricity of power transportation.

Our Position is Diesel Power is at the Fork in the Road

By providing electricity to the most remote locations including islands, the North and South poles, and other places across the world, the diesel engine has been a key invention in human history. Diesel engines are used globally for trucking, shipping and rail transportation, along with any other mode that needs efficient and reliable power.

No other technology can cover such a diverse range of applications. Out of any standard internal or external combustion power source, the diesel engine has the highest thermal efficiency. With a high compression ratio and inherent lean burn, the engine allows heat dissipation by intake of excess air which makes for an incredibly simple power source.

However, there are many problems associated with the continued use of diesel as a fuel. It emits greenhouse gases and particulate matter that degrade the environment, and foster dependence on volatile Middle East oil reserves. Diesel has an expiry date, it can gel in low temperatures, can get water logged and separates over time. It is poisonous to plants and animals, pollutes water and soil if leaked into it, necessitates layers of anti-pollution devices and can use up to 8 liters of purified, fresh water for each liter of diesel produced. Today, the compression engine is great power source that comes with a problematic fuel.

The Industry & Government Players Comment

California Div. of Measurements & Standards of the Dept. of Food & Agriculture:

The use of fuels like DME will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve air quality and lead to a positive impact on California and the environment.

Kristin Macey, Director of the Division of Measurement Standards at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which issued the latest approval of DME fuel

Dimethyl Ether – Keep the Engine, Change the Fuel

The challenge is to find a fuel for compression engines that is environmentally friendly, stores easily and is transported simply. A number of well-established processes mean Dimethyl Ether can be readily synthesized from abundant natural gas and biomass feedstock. It is benign, evaporates after a spill, burns smoke free with no sulfur and reduced nitrous oxide, and generates 1 to 2 liters of water for each liter of fuel produced. Unlike compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid natural gas (LNG), most importantly, DME is used in compression engines, which substantially impacts the potential applications of this fuel over LNG, CNG, Ethanol or Methanol. Finally, the path is clear for clean diesel power across the globe.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by ChemBioPower Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit ChemBioPower Inc.

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