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Ube plans double electronic boost

Japan’s Ube has revealed that is has been studying the feasibility of commercializing dimethyl carbonate (DMC) and ethyl methyl carbonate (EMC) in the US and has also decided to build an additional plant for high-purity nitric acid in Japan. Both moves are described as in line with its medium- and its longer-term plans.

The company is now beginning basic design for a plant in Louisiana, which would have capacities of 100,000 tonnes/year for DMC and 40,000 of downstream EMC. A final investment decision is to be made in 1H fiscal 2023. Operations would commence in 2H fiscal 2025.

DMC and EMC are the principal component of the solvent for electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries, while DMC is also used as a developing solution in semiconductor manufacturing. They are not currently made in the US, instead being supplied by Ube from Japan and various Chinese manufacturers.

DMC is produced from CO using UBE’s proprietary gas phase nitrite process. The company said that it would use natural gas as a starting material at the US site “to limit CO2 emissions and supply cost-competitive product, thereby establishing a firm position as a leading company in this field”.

The new nitric acid facility is at the company's main site in Ube, Yamaguchi prefecture (pictured). It is due to start trial operations in February 2024 and will increase capacity by 50% at a time of steadily increasing demand for high-purity nitric acid in semiconductor cleaning and the etching process. Ube itself has supplied this to the market since 1986.

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