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India moves ahead with plans to blend DME into LPG

The Indian government is moving ahead with plans to start producing dimethyl ether (DME) for blending into LPG up to a level of about 20% to reduce its LPG imports, according to Vijay Kumar Saraswat, a member of the government’s policy think-tank Niti Aayog.

State-run refiner IOC and government research center National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), based in Pune, are working on a pilot project to produce DME from methanol, which is mainly derived from fossil fuels and some biomass. They aim to build a plant that will initially produce 200-300 tons per year before ramping up to about 500 tons per year.

The theoretical limit for blending DME into LPG has been set at 20%, based on an IOC study. The government intends to phase in the blending of DME into LPG in a similar way to ethanol blending into petrol, which started at 1.53pc in the 2013-14 fiscal year ending in March, before reaching 12pc by January this year. The government is targeting 20pc ethanol blending in petrol by 2025.

DME blending at 20pc is feasible as there is no need to change the pipeline and storage infrastructure or LPG cylinders as the chemical properties are similar, Saraswat said. All that would be required is a blending plant, with a 20 percent DME-LPG blend potentially saving around 200 rupees ($2.40) per cylinder, Saraswat says. A 14.2 kg LPG cylinder in Delhi costs 803 rupees, while a commercial 19 kg cylinder costs 1,676 rupees.

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