OME synthetic diesel tested by Continental, viewed as bridge to all-electric

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Continental announced that the synthetic diesel fuel, oxymethylene ether (OME), will lower CO2 emissions in proportion to the amount of OME blended with other diesel fuel.

Continental, which conducted OME tests in Germany, said the fuel is CO2 neutral and will serve as a bridge to all-electric powertrains. Continental’s announcement comes as more countries in Europe call for a ban on diesel engines over emissions concerns.

“Synthetic fuels do not only contribute to CO2-neutral mobility. For instance, OME produces almost no soot when burned,” said Dr. Oliver Maiwald, head of technology and innovation at Continental’s Powertrain division. “Continental is therefore actively promoting vehicle technology for the use of synthetic fuels. Our objective is to create a transition phase in which normal driving does not contribute to climate change. We have made the most progress with OME for diesel applications.”

However, the economical production of synthetic fuels like OME, according to Continental, remains as one of the greater hurdles to its widespread use. For instance, technology for producing OME on an industrial scale is still in development.

“It is therefore pragmatic to assume a gradual introduction of OME. With this in mind, we have now carried out an initial test of diesel containing OME,” says Dr. Gerd Rösel, head of advanced engineering at Continental’s engine systems business unit, powertrain division. “Our vehicle tests have shown that a 15 percent OME admixture in diesel fuel—in addition to the current seven percent of biofuel—is already usable in engines today.”

Continental reports that the virtually CO2-neutral production and combustion of OME have led to proportionate reductions in CO2 emissions. For instance, diesel fuel tested containing 15 percent OME had a 15 percent drop in CO2.

In 2015, Ford announced that it would be participating in a three-year OME and DME research project in Germany, co-funded by the German government. DME is commonly used as a non-toxic propellant in aerosol spray gas, and OME is used as a solvent in the chemical industry.