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
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
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
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.
|100ton/day DME direct synthesis demonstration
||Directly synthesized DME sample