Process Economics Program Report 245B
Dimethyl Ether (DME) From Coal
Published: November 2009
Dimethyl ether (DME) is a clean energy source that can be manufactured from various raw materials such as petroleum residues, coal bed methane, and biomass as well as natural gas and coal. DME generates absolutely no SOx or black smoke (soot) when burned. Practical use of DME is advancing in the fields of power generation, automotive/industrial diesel engines, and domestic household use among other possible applications because of its excellent physical, chemical, and storage properties. The demand for this fuel in Asia is rising rapidly to provide both household and transportation energy.
The technological developments for DME production as a fuel started from natural gas around the mid 1990’s and targeted the use of DME as an LPG alternative, a transportation fuel for diesel engines, and fuel for gas turbines. DME became well known as a potential multisource, multi-purpose fuel produced by indirect processes. Although DME can be produced easily by the dehydration of methanol, a direct process for integrated production began to be researched in Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Today, DME can be produced either directly from synthesis gas or by the indirect method which passes through methanol production.
Because we recently evaluated the production of DME from natural gas in PEP Report 245A, in this report we describe and review the economic units involved in the integrated production of DME from coal. This report is unique in that it highlights all major aspects of coal gasification, production and utilization of DME as a fuel (including storage, transportation, and distribution) and a projection of future market potential from fundamentals, in addition to presenting our traditional techno-economic analysis.
Finally, process economics for integrated production of DME from coal using an alternative indirect process technology developed by Haldor Topsoe are provided and compared with a direct process technology developed by JFE.