Idemitsu invests US$114 mn in e-methanol producer HIF Global

Idemitsu invests US$114 mn in e-methanol producer HIF Global

Japanese energy firm Idemitsu Kosan has invested US$114 million in pioneering e-fuel producer, HIF Global, as part of its plans to develop a market for green methanol and synthetic fuels in Japan.

Houston-based HIF — which built the first green hydrogen to synthetic fuel plant in Chile and now has the green light to build a 1.8GW facility in Texas — says it also saw a further US$50 million of investment from existing investors, without identifying which ones.

Existing investors include Porsche and Baker Hughes.

“To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we have decided to initially focus our resources on e-methanol, along with blue ammonia [derived from natural gas with carbon capture and storage] and SAF [sustainable aviation fuel, which is usually biofuel],” said Idemitsu chief operating officer Susumu Nibuya.

“We are eager to learn from HIF Global, a pioneer in e-methanol with extensive expertise in this field. Together, we aspire to develop a market for e-methanol and synthetic fuels.”

With this investment Tokyo-based Idemitsu will take a stake in HIF — which stands for Highly Innovative Fuels — but the size of the stake has not been revealed.

Idemitsu and HIF Global previously announced a four-part “strategic co-operation agreement” in April last year, which included investment in HIF; the purchase of e-fuels; the development of the e-fuels market in Japan; and the creation of CO2 supply chains (drop-in fuels such as synthetic aviation fuel and e-gasoline, as well as e-methanol require the addition of captured CO2 to be carbon-neutral).

HIF became the world’s first commercial producer of e-fuels (ie, fuels made from electricity) last year when the first 2,600 l of e-gasoline — chemically identical to conventional gasoline — from its pioneering Haru Oni plant in southern Chile was shipped to Porsche in Europe.

That project uses an on-site 3.4MW wind turbine to power a PEM electrolyser that produces green hydrogen, and direct-air capture to generate carbon dioxide. The H2 and CO2 is then combined to produce a syngas that is passed through a catalyst inside a reactor to produce green methanol (CH3OH).

That methanol is then vaporised, superheated and fed into a fluid bed reactor with a second catalyst that converts it into hydrocarbon fuel and water.

Also last year, HIF Global was given the green light by local authorities to build a much larger e-fuel plant in southern Texas, which aims to produce 750 million l/year of e-methanol and e-gasoline by 2027. But the company has not yet taken a final investment decision on that project.