Dimethyl ether venture partners begin development of pilot plant

DME Development Co. Ltd. said it will begin a government-subsidized project to develop direct synthesis technology for dimethyl ether (DME).

Aug 9th, 2002

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Aug. 9 -- DME Development Co. Ltd.—a consortium formed last year by TotalFinaElf SA and eight Japanese firms—said it will begin a government-subsidized project to develop direct synthesis technology for dimethyl ether (DME). The consortium company, which operates as a sister company to Tokyo-based DME International Corp., will study DME production using partner company NKK Corp.'s proprietary direct synthesis techniques (OGJ Online, Oct. 10, 2001).

The project calls for the start-up of a pilot plant to be built in Kushiro, Hokkaido, which will have the capacity to produce 100 tonnes/day of DME from a feed of synthesis gas (comprising carbon monoxide and hydrogen) made from natural gas. NKK has already constructed a "bench" plant capable of producing 5 tonnes/day of direct DME synthesis.

Based on the test results, the consortium said it would conduct a feasibility study for a commercial DME plant with a capacity of 2,500 tonnes/day.

DME Development will design, fabricate, construct, and perform commission tests on the pilot plant this year and in 2003, and will run the plant on an experimental basis from 2004-06, it said.

The study plans five, 3-month runs of continuous operation of the pilot plant for up to 3 months each run. "This level of testing will enable the company to verify the technologies and obtain the data required for the design of a commercial plant," the consortium said.

The consortium is constructing the plant to supply what they said is "a large, potential market" for DME in the Asian region. "Many look to (DME) as the next generation of energy, and there is great hope riding on its commercialization," it said.

The Japanese consortium partner firms are NKK Corp., Nippon Sanso Corp., Toyota Tsusho Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Marubeni Corp., Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd., INPEX Corp., and LNG Japan Corp.

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