ABSTRACT:

DME - DiMethy Ether - is increasingly calling attention world wide as new fuel. DME is clean, environmental friendly, not a "green house" gas and harmless to the ozone layer. DME can be produced from various energy sources such as natural gas, coal or biomass. In a certain way DME also belongs to GTL family. Both Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and DME synthesis start from what is known as "synthesis gas", a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide produced from natural gas by reforming or partial oxidation of coal. But the final product of the conversion is quite different for each process. The product of Fischer-Tropsch conversion is mainly a mixture of middle distillate hydrocarbons including diesel oil and base oil for lubricant. The product of DME conversion is a pure simple oxygenate having physical properties similar to LPG. DME can be handles similarly as LPG. DME condenses at -25°C under atmospheric pressure or under 5 to 6 bars at ambient temperature. Existing tankers and receiving terminals of LPG can be easily converted for DME distribution. Production of DME is not as capital intensive as Fischer-Tropsch GTL downstream treatments such as costly hydrocracking, are not necessary. Although DME is produced worldwide by dehydration of methanol in small units, for very specific usages, DME production technology on a large scale had not yet been well proven. In this background, TOTAL joined in 2001, as the only international oil major, a consortium of 9 Japanese companies for the validation of a one-step process DME commercial production technology through the construction and the operation of a 100 t/d demonstration plant in Kushiro, Hokkaido, a northern part of Japan. The total budget of this 5 year development project was 20 billion Yens (150 million Euros) of which 2/3 was subsidized by JFE(No.2 steel manufacturer in Japan). The results of demonstration are evaluated as very successful. The latest result of performances of this new process will be reported in this paper. The potential markets for DME are expected to be fuel for diesel engines - transportation, power generation -, LPG substitute in blending or pure, fuel for turbines, feedstock for fuel cell and petrochemicals intermediates

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