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CO2 As Feedstock

Mitsui will make methanol from the greenhouse gas

by Jean-François Tremblay
September 1, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 35

Japan's Mitsui Chemicals will build a demonstration plant for a new technology to synthesize methanol from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The company envisages using the methanol as a feedstock for olefins and aromatics.

Methanol is typically made from a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are, in turn, created by reforming methane. Mitsui says it has invented catalysts that make its CO2-to-methanol process viable. And by using the sun's rays to make hydrogen via water photolysis, Mitsui expects to emit about half as much CO2 as it consumes, a company spokesman says.

Marc Berggren, managing director of the Singapore-based consulting firm Methanol Market Services Asia, tells C&EN that several firms are attempting to come up with similar processes. Most are trying to harness nuclear, wind, or solar energy to generate the hydrogen, he says.

Mitsui says it has been working on the technology since 1990 in a joint research project with Japan's New Energy & Industrial Technology Development Organization. The pilot plant, with an annual capacity of 100 metric tons, will be built at Mitsui's Osaka Works at a cost of about $14 million. Construction will start in October, and the plant will begin operations in March 2010, Mitsui says.

No chemical company has used methanol as an olefin feedstock on a commercial basis. The Mitsui spokesman tells C&EN that the firm is still developing viable processes for doing so. He adds that the company may look into getting carbon credits once the CO2-to-methanol technology is proven.


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