India and Australia today said they could provide a solution to energy concerns and reduce reliance on imported fuels through a new research partnership on clean fuel production.
The widespread introduction of a clean-burning synthetic fuel, dimethyl ether (DME), is a step closer following the announcement of a 6 million Australian dollars (USD 5.6 million) partnership between the two countries.
The partnership involves India's premier industrial R&D organisation Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Australia's national science agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
The project will focus on improving processes involved in the production of DME, a liquid fuel produced from natural gas, coal, biomass or even directly from carbon dioxide, CSIRO said here in a statement today.
The three-year project is being jointly funded by the Australian and Indian governments, through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF).
Both Australia and India are currently unable to meet demand for petroleum products with domestic production alone.
DME could help meet demand and consequently reduce both nations' reliance on imported petroleum products, the statement said.
"There are over half a million vehicles currently using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in Australia - all of which could be powered using DME. The fact that DME can be used as a blend in existing LPG engines makes it an effective transitional fuel," said Nick Burke, research group leader, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
"Australia's heavy reliance on diesel could also be lessened with the added possibility of DME being able to replace diesel in the future" he said.
Paul Webley of University of Melbourne said in addition to the economic benefits, DME will provide significant environmental benefits for both countries.
"DME produces significantly less pollution than conventional fuels and will therefore reduce urban pollution," he said.
The research will also assist in the development of small plants that may be suitable in remote and rural areas.
Suresh Bhargava of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) said, "More efficient processing of gas into transportable fuels at remote locations would make Australia and India's remote gas reserves more economically viable".
In addition to CSIRO and Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP), the project will draw on the expertise of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Roorkee), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), The Centre of Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry (CAMIC) at RMIT, and the University of Melbourne.