Ube Industries and HighChem to Bring Technologies for Using Coal to Manufacture a Polyester Feedstock to China

February 17, 2011

TOKYO, February 17, 2011_Ube Industries, Ltd. (Head Office: Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture; President: Michio Takeshita) and HighChem Co., Ltd. (Head Office: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; Executive Director: Taka Ushio) today announced that they will license their technologies for transforming a synthetic gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases) derived from coal gasification into a polyester feedstock to the Chinese firm Qianxixian Qianxi Coal Chemical Investment Co., Ltd. (Guizhou Province, President: Chen Guozhen; referred to as Qianxixian hereafter).

The license covers the process for manufacturing dimethyl oxalate (DMO) and the process for manufacturing ethylene glycol (MEG), a polyester feedstock derived through the reduction of DMO.* These technologies enable a MEG industrialization process that is clean, economical, and has a low environmental impact.

Until now, MEG manufacturing was based on ethane from gases associated with crude oil or ethylene from naphtha, but these technologies for the DMO and MEG processes are the first in the world to enable the manufacture of MEG from coal-derived carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases on an industrial scale.

Based on this licensed technology, Qianxixian will build a coal gasification facility and a 300,000-tonne MEG (720,000-tonne DMO) manufacturing facility in Guizhou Province, with plans to bring them online sometime around the end of 2012 or early 2013.

MEG demand in China is rising at a rapid 10% to 15% per year for use in polyester fiber and PET resin, but naphtha-based MEG production there is limited, so the vast majority must be imported.

As part of a national program to promote the petrochemical industry, China is encouraging the use of its vast coal deposits as a chemical raw material instead of a fuel in an effort to increase its value and achieve environmental conservation. The competitiveness of the MEG process along with its strong energy and environmental contributions is attracting the attention of MEG manufacturers in China.

Ube Industries and HighChem are also pursuing negotiations to license these technologies to other Chinese companies, and they expect to establish license agreements for several millions of tonnes and to receive royalty payments totaling several billion yen within the next two or three years.

The DMO process is based on a proprietary carbon monoxide coupling reaction from Ube Industries that employs a palladium (Pd) solid catalyst and is proud of high safety and productivity. The MEG process is now undergoing a HighChem-led pilot demonstration in China based on Ube Industry technology, and an industrial production process has been established that can support increased scale.

Ube Industries is a global leader in C1 chemicals that produce chemical products that are based on carbon monoxide, and it is currently expanding its technologies to increase the options for using coal and natural gas and contribute to reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and waste materials. Ube Industries manufactures dimethyl carbonate (DMC), a major component of the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries, at its own plants, and rank at the top of the world market for electrolytes. Along with agreements in China to license its technologies for producing a polyester feedstock , Ube Industries is also exploring the possibility of establishing tie-ups for DMC (for electrolyte, diesel oil additive, and conventional solvent applications) and oxamide (for slow-released fertilizer applications) as well as looking into expanding its bulk chemicals business, focused on China.

MEG manufacturing method from coal
MEG and water are produced from carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H 2), and oxygen (O 2). In the DMO process, Ube Industry's proprietary nitrite technology results in the highly selective formation of C-C bonds, enabling the production of DMO. In the MEG process, methanol is a byproduct of DMO hydrogenation, but it is recycled by the DMO process. These processes are extremely efficient and clean, and they feature an overall high level of selectivity and few byproducts.
MEG manufacturing method from coal


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