Carbon Cycle Sumitomo Chemical, Shimane University to Fast-Track Methanol Synthesis Research
Sumitomo Chemical Company and Shimane University aim to accelerate their joint research on synthesising methanol from carbon dioxide in the background of growing climate change concerns. Together, they also intend to promote the use of carbon cycle chemistry.
Japan – Shimane University and Sumitomo Chemical Company have recently announced their decision to accelerate joint research on a highly effective method of synthesising methanol from carbon dioxide at a yield ideal for practical implementation.
Methanol is an industrial alcohol that is widely used as a basic raw material for chemical products such as adhesives, drugs, coating materials, and synthetic resins, as well as for light olefins, including ethylene and propylene. With an annual global demand of approximately 80 million tonnes, methanol is currently manufactured from fossil resources, mainly natural and coal gases, through several manufacturing processes under high temperatures and high pressures.
Amid the growing urgency of addressing climate change on a global scale, academia and industry are cooperating to develop carbon cycle technologies, aiming to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. By combining carbon dioxide generated from the incineration of waste with hydrogen derived from renewable energy, Sumitomo Chemical can create methanol that can be used to produce useful industrial products while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, because methanol can also be produced from syngas (a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide), it is also possible to convert used plastics and biomass resources from a region into syngas, and use that gas as the raw material for the production of methanol, thereby creating a complete carbon cycle.
Challenges for the practical implementation of methanol synthesis using carbon dioxide as a raw material are the low yield of methanol and catalyst degradation due to the presence of water vapour as a byproduct. However, a novel process technology that can increase reaction yield, developed by Professor Kohji Omata of the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Science and Engineering at Shimane University, has recently gathered attention as a technology that may overcome these challenges. In this joint research, Shimane University will continue basic research into catalysts and reaction processes, while Sumitomo Chemical will work on industrial applications of the catalysts and processes developed in Shimane University’s basic research, to establish a highly effective methanol manufacturing process.
In its charter, Shimane University declares its mission to contribute to the creation of an enriched society that coexists with nature, its respect for the tradition and spirit cultivated in Shimane due to its status as a center of wisdom and culture, and its aspiration to become a university with individuality, which is rooted in the region and communicates from the local community to the world. In the knowledge-based society of the 21st century, there is a need for the further development of science and technology through the creation of new knowledge and the use of that knowledge. Shimane University promotes organic alliances with various external agencies across various fields, going beyond conventional frameworks, and contributes to the sustainable development of society by pioneering new science and technology.
Sumitomo Chemical has identified environmental impact mitigation as one of the material issues to be addressed by its management. The company established a Research and Development (R&D) Group, also known as the Environmental Initiative Technological Development Group, in the Petrochemicals Research Laboratory (Sodegaura City, Chiba) to accelerate the development of new solutions relating to issues in society, such as carbon cycle technology and reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses, while actively promoting open innovation.
Through this joint research, Shimane University and Sumitomo Chemical will contribute to the creation of a sustainable society by completing a highly efficient methanol manufacturing process and establishing the carbon cycle based on the resources of carbon dioxide and used plastics.