Production of DME
DME production is made by two kinds of process routes: Indirect method that produces DME by dehydration reaction of methanol and Direct method that synthesizes DME directly from synthesis gas (gas mainly composed of H2 and CO) which is produced from natural gas, coal, and biomass, etc. as raw material.
While most of DME is currently produced by the Indirect method, technical development of the Direct method has been carried out expecting its higher efficiency because the methanol itself is synthesized from the synthesis gas.
DME Promotion Plant by the Indirect method
Aiming to promote the wide-spread of DME fuel, nine companies; Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, ITOCHU, JAPEX, Taiyo Oil, Total Di-Methyl Japan, Toyota Tsusho, JGC, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Chemical, established a joint venture company “Fuel DME Production Co. Ltd.” to produce annually 80,000 tons of DME (potential expansion up to 100,000 tons). The DME production plant was constructed in Niigata factory of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, and started the operation in August, 2008.
Fuel grade DME (purity 99.8%) is produced from imported methanol by the methanol dehydration process of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, and it is used as boiler fuel of food companies, fuel for DME truck of transportation companies, etc. in Niigata prefecture.
Development of Slurry phase DME direct synthesis technology
This technology is characterized by a catalyst with which DME is synthesized directly with high efficiency and a slurry phase reactor of which the structure is so simple to be easily scaled up.
In order to develop the DME direct synthesis technology to such extent that its commercialization is feasible, the technical development was conducted with support from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese government for five years from fiscal year 2002, using a demonstration plant of 100 tons in daily production, by a research company “DME Development Co. Ltd.” , which had been established by 10 companies; JFE, Taiyo Nissan, Toyota Tsusho, Hitachi, Marubeni, Idemitsu Kosan, INPEX, LNG Japan, JAPEX and Total.
Five test operations including a long-term continuous operation for five months were done between fiscal year 2003 and fiscal year 2006, and the technology has been demonstrated, various engineering data is acquired, and scale-up technology to commercial plant is established. This technology is now taken over jointly by four companies (Toyota Tsusho, INPEX, JAPEX and Total).