With natural gas prices expected to remain low and carbon emissions becoming more stringent, new fuels are being developed using natural gas products as feedstock. Dimethyl Ether (DME) is one opportunity that appears to have global applications as a cleaner-burning alternative to diesel fuel. It uses methanol – made from natural gas – as a primary feedstock.
Although these are still early days, DME is gaining serious attention around the world. Earlier this year, New York City’s sanitation department announced that its fleet would test DME-fuelled Mack trucks, marking the first customer demonstration of the fuel. In 2015, Ford announced it would spend 3.5 million euros on alternative fuel research for passenger cars, specifically mentioning DME as a focus area.
The Methanol Institute reports that current global DME production is 5 million tons, with demand expected to rise sharply to 20 million tons by 2020.
In all that news is a potential opportunity for Medicine Hat. The City owns its natural gas resource, with the Empress Straddle Plant nearby providing an additional natural gas source.
Thinking about the application of natural gas in petrochemical manufacturing, the Government of Alberta recently revamped their Invest Alberta website and acknowledged Medicine Hat’s position as an important petrochemical cluster. It’s a welcome development and shows that petrochemical manufacturing opportunities in the city are getting the attention they deserve.
Medicine Hat is certainly a jurisdiction that could support DME manufacturing. Within Medicine Hat there is over a century of experience of businesses managing energy assets. There is proof of continued innovation with the City’s plans to pursue proving out potential helium reserves. With some of Canada’s largest petrochemical plants located in Medicine Hat, these companies continue to attract and retain qualified engineering talent.
When it comes to the cost of doing business, Medicine Hat shines there too. The city doesn’t collect equipment tax. Land is less expensive than competing jurisdictions and the trades sector is experienced in industrial work. Logistically, Medicine Hat’s location at the junction of Highways 1 and 3, and the CPR main line allows for easy transport across Canada, into the United States and delivery to Vancouver’s port, providing global access.
Indeed, Medicine Hat has the assets, expertise and desire to support a DME development. As the fuel continues to evolve and enter new markets, Medicine Hat will continue positioning itself as a DME hub in a fast-growing new global industry.
This article originally appeared in the Medicine Hat News on October 25, 2017.