Among the international contractors understood to have been approached are Germany’s Lurgi, Italy’s Snamprogettiand Japan’s Toyo Engineering Corporation. Five local companies have been selected and approved by Zagros as potential partners. They are Enerchemie, Namvaran, Nargan Consulting Engineers, Sazeh Consultantsand Petrochemical Industries Design & Engineering Company (Pidec).

Industry sources say the new facility will have capacity to produce about 800,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of DME. Methanol feedstock for the plant will be sourced from Zagros, which produces 1.65 million t/y of methanol at its complex. It is not clear whether the project will be tendered on an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) basis.

Iran has mulled the option to build a DME plant for some time. DME is environmentally friendly and has physical properties similar to those of LPG, but is easier to handle and transport. DME, which may be used as a generator fuel and a source of hydrogen energy, is normally produced from methanol. Studies are also under way to determine the potential of DME as an alternative to diesel fuel for diesel engines.

In addition to DME, Tehran is also looking to develop a gas-to-liquids (GTL) capability, under a programme being handled by NPC.