TOKYO -- A consortium of nine companies jointly established a private
research company called DME Development Co., Ltd. to pursue the development
and commercialization of technology for the direct synthesis of dimethyl
ether (DME). The partners are NKK Corporation, Nippon Sanso Corporation,
Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Hitachi, Ltd., Marubeni Corporation, Idemitsu
Kosan Co., Ltd., INPEX Corporation, TotalFinaElf and LNG Japan Corporation.
DME is expected to help meet the growing demand for
stable energy supplies and reduced environmental load in the face
of rising concerns about serious energy shortages and environmental
DME is a clean energy source that can be produced from a wide variety
of hydrocarbon materials. It has very little environmental load because
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 consumer fuel (as an alternative
to LPG), transportation (in fuel cells and as an alternative to diesel
fuel), electric power generation (in thermal power plants and fuel
cells) and hydrogen-based power generation.
The process of directly synthesizing DME would enable untapped reserves
of low-grade coal and the smaller gas fields around Asia to be put
to effective use. Considering the ready availability of resources
needed for its production, DME offers the promise of becoming a widely
available form of new energy offering the attractive combination of
energy independence and low-level environmental load.
NKK, backed by Japans Agency of Natural Resources and Energy
under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), has led
an ongoing, collaborative effort to establish direct synthesis technology
for the low-cost mass-production of DME. An NKK-led team, working
with the Center for Coal Utilization of Japan between 1997 and 2000,
succeeded in synthesizing DME from coal-bed methane using a 5-ton-per-day
bench plant. In fiscal 2001, working under consignment from the New
Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO),
the team advanced to the conceptual design phase for a 100-ton-per-day
pilot plant for larger-scale demonstration tests. The newly established
company will focus on demonstration testing and the development of
more efficient technology, aiming to commercialize DME direct synthesis
technology as quickly as possible.
The latent market for DME as a replacement for LPG and generator fuel
in Asia alone is estimated to grow to approximately 100 million tons
a year by 2010, according to a survey NKK conducted in 2000. In view
of DME's tremendous potential as a new source of alternative energy,
NKK and the other members of the above-mentioned consortium (except
LNG Japan, which joined later) established DME International Corporation
in October 2001 to conduct marketing and related commercialization
feasibility studies, which are now under way.
DME Development, operating as the sister company of DME International,
will pursue the technical side of developing DME direct synthesis
technology for commercial applications.
Profile of DME Development Co., Ltd.
||1-1-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo (premises of NKK head office)
|Nippon Sanso Corporation
|Toyota Tsusho Corporation
|Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
|LNG Japan Corporation
||Yotaro Ohno, concurrently Senior General
Environmental Solutions Center, NKK Corp.
||Osamu Inokoshi, concurrently Chief Manager,
Group, Environmental Solutions Center, NKK Corp.
||Toshio Suwa, concurrently Director,
Yamanashi Research Center, Technical Development Group, Nippon