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
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
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