Nine major Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, Itochu, and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (JPE), are establishing a joint venture company for the production of dimethyl ether (DME) for use as a synthetic, next-generation fuel.
The joint venture, Fuel DME Production Co., will build a DME production plant within Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company’s Niigata Factory (Niigata-shi). Initial capacity will be 80,000 tonnes per year, expandable to 100,000 tonnes per year. Operation is scheduled to begin in June 2008.
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical will own 29.15% of the venture; Itochu, 13.25%; and JPE, 12%. The other partners and their respective shares are: Taiyo Oil Co. (10%); Total Di-Methyl Ether Japan Ltd. (10%); Toyota Tsusho Corp. (10%); JGC Corp. (5.3%); Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (5.3%); and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. (5%).
The Japanese government has flagged DME promotion as an important element in its Basic Energy Plan, and is supporting technology developments for DME production and application, as is China.
JGC is in charge of the construction of the new production plant, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical will handle plant operations.
Most DME is produced via a two-stage process that converts syngas (from a variety of feedstocks) to methanol, and then dehydrates that to produce DME. Some companies—Total among them—are working on a more efficient, one-step process for the direct synthesis of DME from syngas. The first Fuel DME Production plant will use the methanol process.