Comprehensive chemical manufacturer Futamura Chemical has more than a 60-year track record in activated carbon, one type of adsorbent. In January last year, they acquired Adsorption Technology Industries, who mainly makes and sells PSA-related products, as a subsidiary to emerge as a PSA system gas generator manufacturer this spring, reported The Gas Review.

Adsorption Technology Industries’ strength in PSA-related technologies lies in purification, separation and recovery technology for methane gas, hydrogen (H2) and other gases. Futamura Chemical focused on biogas fuel cell systems that generate power from carbon dioxide (CO2)-free H2 derived from biogas. (PSA method is used to upgrade methane from biogas produce purified H2 from the upgraded methane, and use the purified H2 in fuel cells.) They will take advantage of their sales network which they have fostered at home and overseas to start business activities for bigas power generation plant around the world. Plans are to sell methane PSA and H2 PSA equipment from Adsorption Technology Industries on a global basis.

Futamura Chemical started business in 1950 as an activated carbon manufacturer. They have been advancing the development of new materials and expanding their business areas, and in addition to activated carbon they now also feature the development of an expanded range of products, including plastic films for wrapping food products, industrial/medical cellophane, phenolic laminated sheets for electronic component insulation and saccharification materials for soft capsule base materials. They have centres in six countries – the USA, England, Australia, Mexico, Braxil and Malaysia – with total sales of approximately YEN 71.5bn for the term ending in March 2018 (non-consolidated basis), with 85% in wrapping films, 10% in activated carbon and 5% in other products.

For PSA-related products, Tsurumicoal, a subsidiary of Futamura Chemical, makes and sells high-performance gas separation activated carbon. Futamura Chemical started selling activated carbon for methane adsorption to Adsorption Technology Industries three or four years ago, forming the starting point for the current acquisition as a subsidiary.

Futamura Chemical Director Yasunori Hotta, who is also General Manger of the Activated Carbon Division and Carbon Filter Sales Department, describes the course of events, “The Activated Carbon Division was looking for an opportunity to become involved in equipment as well and then the President of Adsorption Technology Industries took ill after we started doing business with them. He was looking for someone to take over the business and we agreed to acquire them.”

High-purity refining and high recovery rate with unique gas separation technology

Adsorption Technology Industries started in 2006 as a venture company by Nagasaki University in Omura City, Nagasaki Prefecture, under a prefectural venture creation subsidy project. The present capital of the company is YEN 100m. Hotta also serves as President and Representative Director of Adsorption Technology Industries.

From inception, Adsorption Technology Industries mainly performed R&D, design and manufacture of chemical and environmental equipment that uses adsorption technology, and in recent years has started the manufacture and sale of PSA gas generation systems and sewage purification equipment. However, the corporate culture resulted in the absence of a lineup of ready-made products and little external sales, so the year after coming under the wing of Futamura Chemical has seen a revamping of the company’s structure and standardisation of their products. Accompanying the creation of a New Equipment Sales Division inside Futamural Chemical, sales will be handled by the new division and Adsorption Technology Industries will turn to concentrate on development and manufacturing.

Their main product, a VPSA methane purification, separation and recovery system uses the VPSA method. A vacuum pump creates a vacuum in the adsorption tower to maximise the adsorbent capacity and achieve a high recovery ratio of 90% or more of the methane with a low power consumption of one to 25 kW. Other specifications include an inlet gas flow of five to 300 Nm3/h, a pure methane gas flow of two to 135 Nm3/h, and a methane purity level of 90% or higher.

Otherwise, their PSA H2 purification, separation and recovery system features a unique gas separation technology that purifies inlet H2 gas with a purity of 60% to 70% all the way to 99.999%. Other specifications include an inlet gas flow of 5 Nm3/h, dimensions of 1.8 x 1.4 x 1.5m, a weight of 510kg and an explosion-proof rating of i3aG1.

Any of these products use activated carbon adsorbent from Tsurumicoal, while zerolite is procured from two outside sources. One system costs approximately YEN 10m. Full-scale manufacturing of both VPSA and PSA gas generators is scheduled to start at the end of the year in a new plant being built in Omura City, Nagasaki Prefecture. Plant construction started in March this year with capital provided by Futamura Chemical and future expansion is being studied.

Director Hotta said of the future, “The market for biogas power generation is just starting up but we have already gotten inquiries both from inside Japan and from overseas and we believe this trend will continue to get stronger. As a new PSA gas generation system manufacturer, we want to work to increase our name recognition and undertake development of products with high added value.”