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  November 18, 2003
DME Development Co., Ltd.

  100 Ton/Day DME Direct Synthesis Demonstration Plant Completed


TOKYO -- DME Development Co., Ltd. was established in December 2001 as a private research company to promote the development and commercialization of direct synthesis technology for dimethyl ether (DME), a new clean fuel. A total of ten companies have invested in DME Development: JFE Holdings, Inc.; Nippon Sanso Corporation; Toyota Tsusho Corporation; Hitachi, Ltd.; Marubeni Corporation; Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.; INPEX Corporation; Total S.A.; LNG Japan Corporation; and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd.

DME Development has recently completed construction of a DME direct synthesis demonstration plant with a 100 ton/day capacity in Shiranuka-cho, Hokkaido, which will be commissioned on November 19. The company has been conducting a project since July 2002 on "Technologies to manufacture fuels with reduced environment-load" with the support of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under METI.

This project will conduct demonstration tests of the 100 ton/day plant before moving on to a feasibility study for an envisioned commercial plant, with the ultimate goal of establishing technology for the direct synthesis of DME.

The plant will use a newly developed slurry-phase reactor to directly synthesize DME from hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas produced from natural gas.

Trial operations will begin in December, and there will be a total of five continuous operational periods between 2004 and 2006 with a maximum length of three months each. During this time, DME Development expects the plant to achieve the following capacity ratings: 100 tons/day DME production, 95% synthesis gas conversion, 90% DME product selectivity, 99% DME purity, and stable continuous plant operation.

Operations will also provide the data necessary to optimize the design of the component units and total systems for commercial plants with capacity in excess of 3,000 tons/day. DME Development hopes to establish the technologies and operational methodologies that will enable it to increase the scale of the slurry-phase reactor and other major equipment.

DME direct synthesis technology was originally developed by the JFE Group as a means of inexpensively mass-producing DME. JFE began basic research into the technology in 1989, and with the support of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under METI, it embarked on a collaborative project with the Center for Coal Utilization, Japan that ran a 5 ton/day pilot plant between 1997 and 2000. This project succeeded in producing DME from coal-bed methane.

DME is a clean fuel produced from a variety of hydrocarbon materials. It has very little environmental load because it generates absolutely no sulfur oxide or particulate matter during combustion. DME is also non-toxic and extremely easy to handle, making it widely applicable in fields such as home fuels (as an alternative to LPG), transportation fuels (as an alternative to diesel fuel and in fuel cells), power generation (in thermal power plants, co-generation systems and fuel cells) and as a chemical raw material.

Given the population surges and resulting expansion of economic activities forecast for the 21st century, one of the major challenges facing mankind will be securing stable supplies of energy while simultaneously reducing the environmental load that comes from increased energy consumption. DME is a new energy that offers one solution to these problems.

DME Development will continue to work toward the establishment and early commercialization of new clean fuel manufacturing technologies, thereby helping to stabilize the supply and demand for energy in the fast-growing Asian region, and also contributing toward environmental conservation. To this end, the company will continue to move forward on the research and development of DME direct synthesis and manufacturing technology.

For further information, please contact:

Isao Takaishi
Research and Planning Department
DME Development Co., Ltd.
Tel: +81-3-3502-6671

Shinji Okutsu
Deputy General Manager, Public Relations
General Administration and Legal Division
JFE Holdings, Inc.
Tel: +81-3-3217-4030


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