SAN DIEGO — Oberon Fuels, a producer of low carbon, renewable dimethyl ether (rDME) transportation fuel, has added five full-time employees to its team at its Brawley production facility, located in a county with one of the highest unemployment rates in California, according to the release.
The expansion of the team comes as the company gears up to produce the first rDME in the United States and is the result of public funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and private investment from SHV Energy, the world’s largest distributor of propane. The company has four additional open positions at the plant and is actively seeking applicants.
“I applaud Oberon Fuels for their investment and overall positive impact on the people and community of Imperial Valley,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-56). “Imperial Valley has among the highest levels of unemployment in California, and these grant opportunities have become more significant than ever — given the harsh economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our state’s ability to support plant expansion and create new, local jobs comes at a pivotal time for our region’s workforce.”
Joining Oberon Plant Manager Adrian Plascencia, new team members include Alex Chavez, Alfredo (Freddie) Sanchez, Drake Martinez, and Tony Vasquez as Plant Operators. Robert Mayden will move to a full-time role and has been promoted to senior plant operator. The company still has three openings for plant operator as well as an opening for a plant supervisor. All of these positions are essential workers under Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home executive order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oberon Fuels’ plant expansion is a shot in the arm to this community and will signal to other employers that quality employees are here and ready to work,” said Timothy E. Kelley, who serves as president and CEO of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation. “We appreciate Oberon’s long-standing partnership and commitment to the Imperial Valley.”
In 2019, the State of California awarded Oberon a $2.9 million grant to upgrade its existing DME pilot facility to demonstration scale and enable the first production of rDME in the US with a target production capacity of approximately 1.6 million gallons per year.
“Oberon’s CEC grant is an excellent example of how the State can make strategic public investments, such as in innovative alternative fuels and energy, which can attract and leverage additional private investment,” said State Senator Ben Hueso (D-40). “That’s a win-win for the State’s clean energy goals, and for Imperial Valley’s workforce and economy.”
According to the release, Oberon’s renewable Dimethyl Ether (rDME) fuel is a cost-effective, low-carbon, zero-soot alternative to petroleum diesel. In addition, rDME is also a cost-effective carrier for hydrogen, making it easy to deliver the renewable fuel for the growing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle industry. Additionally, when blended with propane, rDME can significantly reduce the clean-burning fuel’s carbon intensity. Taken together, Oberon can provide the US and global transportation sectors with practical and affordable pathways to zero-emission transportation, according to the release.
“Growing a business during COVID-19 is full of challenges, the least of which is finding, interviewing, and training new employees,” said Elliot Hicks, co-founder and chief operating officer of Oberon Fuels. “I am proud of the team who overcame these challenges — but we are not done. We still have four positions to fill with people who share our mission of decarbonizing transportation while creating healthier and more prosperous local communities.”
Oberon has also been collaborating with the Imperial County Workforce and Economic Development office on a range of hiring and training initiatives.
“Our Business Services Team has been collaborating with Oberon Fuels in their recruitment efforts, including providing job postings for their available positions throughout our three Job Centers and ICWED social media platforms,” said Priscilla Avendano López, MPA, director of the Imperial County Workforce and Economic Development office. “ICWED is also providing On-The-Job (OJT) training for qualified applicants, which will assist Oberon Fuels by subsidizing a position, as well as preparing residents of Imperial County for a sustainable career. We are happy to assist Oberon Fuels in their recruitment efforts for the benefit of the residents of Imperial County as well as Oberon Fuels.”