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  February 26, 2004
DME Development Co., Ltd.

  DME Development Successfully Tests
100 Ton/Day DME Direct Synthesis Demonstration Plant

TOKYO -- DME Development Co., Ltd., led by President Yotaro Ohno, 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 began a project in July 2002 titled "Technologies to Manufacture Fuels with Reduced Environmental-Load" with the support of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which is a part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The company has just completed a successful test run of a 100 ton/day DME direct synthesis demonstration plant at its research facility in Shiranuka-cho, Hokkaido.

From 1997 to 2000, prior to the establishment of DME Development, the JFE Group worked in collaboration with the Center for Coal Utilization, Japan to build and operate a successful five ton/day pilot plant. The new plant, which was completed on November 19, 2003, builds on that success and has increased the scale twentyfold. It achieves the highest production capacity of any DME plant currently operating in the world.

Test operations began on December 12, 2003 by running a gas reformer that converts natural gas into synthesis gas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide). On December 20th, this synthesis gas was fed into the DME synthesis reactor, and DME production successfully began on the 21st. Test operations were finished on January 26, 2004. The plant ran for 46 continuous days, and operations were generally stable. It achieved its goal of 100 ton/day production of DME at 99.6% purity.

Of particular note is the gas reformer that recycled carbon dioxide, a by-product of DME synthesis, as a carbon source to produce a hydrogen/carbon monoxide gas (H2/CO ratio = 1) with negligible levels of residual methane and soot. The DME synthesis reactor achieved stable temperature control while maintaining uniform temperatures within the reactor, which allowed nearly full achievement of its targets for reaction rates and DME selectivity.

The plant produced a total of 1,240 tons of DME while in operation. The majority was recycled as raw materials for the gas reformer, while 140 tons of high-purity DME were stored in tanks for future testing of application technologies.

DME Development plans to run the plant again for a two-month period beginning in June 2004 after it completes an open equipment inspection.

DME is a clean fuel produced from a variety of hydrocarbon materials. It results in very little environmental load, since 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, cogeneration 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 to secure 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.

Capitalizing on the successful test operations of the demonstration plant, DME Development will continue to move forward on research and development of DME direct synthesis technology, with the goal of rescaling the technology to commercial size.

Photo      Photo
100ton/day DME direct synthesis demonstration plan   Directly synthesized DME sample



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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