US spot methanol soars 8 cents/gal, up 11% for the week

18 October 2012 22:22  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US methanol spot barge prices soared 8 cents/gal on Thursday, reaching 133 cents/gal on manic buying that some said was related to supply issues in Trinidad and Egypt.

Spot methanol began the week at 120 cents/gal before jumping 5 cents/gal on Wednesday and then moving into what one source called crazy territory midday on Thursday. Some methanol sources cited supply and demand reasons for the surge in buying.

“I suspect that the production issues in Egypt and Trinidad & Tobago have left a major buyer short,” said one source.

Methanex’s 1.8m tonne/year Atlas plant in Trinidad has been down this month for a catalyst change to coincide with ongoing natural gas curtailments there.

Natural gas curtailments have become routine over the past 18 months on the Caribbean island because of repairs being done on offshore platforms.

Trinidad supplies 65-75% of US methanol imports in any given month, and the curtailments have reduced the country’s production of methanol, ammonia and other chemicals.

Methanex has another methanol plant at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate in Trinidad, the 850,000 tonne/year Titan plant, but sources say it is running.

In Egypt, Methanex’s 1.3m tonne/year Damietta plant was shut down from late August to late September and restarted in late September, but suppliers are suspicious that the plant is not running at high rates.

Some methanol sources said the manic buying made no sense. A buyer said the bid-offer spread reached 134-137 cents/gal early on Thursday afternoon. “That is insane,” the buyer said.

The move puts spot prices essentially equal with contract prices of 132-133 cents/gal, which has not happened in more than two years.

There were a few weeks in May 2010 when the spread ranged only 1-3 cents/gal, and in October 2010 when the spread was 2-6 cents/gal, according to ICIS.

The spread between US methanol contract and spot prices has ranged 14.50-25.50 cents/gal for all of this year.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Lane Kelley
+1 713 525 2653

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