Methanol producers have been enjoying the best of times, but to paraphrase good old Charles Dickens, they may not necessarily be heading for the worst of times.
There is a staggering amount of capacity due on stream by 2012. By that year, global capacity will stand at 66m tonne/year according to
Mark Berggren of consultancy, MMSA. . This compares with his estimate of global demand of only 50m tonne during that year. 10.58m tonne/year of this capacity will be in the Middle East - representing 25% of the current global total - with China accounting for an even bigger slice of the pie. For more a detailed analysis of methanol see the latest ICIS insight Asia Middle East report Download file
But as Mark and the whole of the methanol world concedes, it is hard to estimate what consumption will be from a whole raft of new end-uses. These include direct blending of methanol into gasoline, dimethyl ether and fuel cells for both cars and computers.
But still, if demand growth is insufficient, you have to pity the smaller, higher cost producers .
In the case of the Chinese coal-based producers, they will be towards the bottom of the cost curve because of low feedstock costs and will increasingly be able to compete with the Middle East.
To carry on with the Dickens quote, from A Tale of Two Cities, he talked of the French Revolution as being "the age of foolishness" and "the age of wisdom".
Perhaps the wonderful world of methanol will also represent such divergent fortunes, with the poor foolish US and European producers facing Madame Guillotine.