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Methyl tertiary butyl ether Overview Transcript
Methyl tertiary butyl ether MTBE is a gasoline octane booster. Although MTBE was banned in the United States, China imports a lot of MTBE because it is the world’s number one automarket.
Singapore, which is Asia’s oil trading hub, is also a big MTBE consumer, due to blending demand.
Singapore exports finished gasoline products to Indonesia which is Asia’s biggest gasoline buyer and then Vietnam. Asia also receives MTBE from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
When the arbitrage economics work, southeast Asia MTBE producers sell the product to China. Besides China, Taiwan and South Korea also import MTBE on a regular basis.
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Updated to Q1 2016
US MTBE fell during Q1 to low spot prices not seen since 2004.
Mid-February brought an average US price of 123.75 cents/gal. The low level came amid plunging oil and gasoline prices in both the US and Europe. The US price is based on a premium to Europe MTBE, and the premium for much of Q1 was 12 cents/gal.
At least one of the four US producers was in an unplanned maintenance during this period, and another was heard to have conducted a planned maintenance.
Coinciding with the outages, the market was considered snug for much of the quarter. Though low oil prices drove MTBE prices down, demand was heard to be fairly strong.
MTBE was phased out as a gasoline additive in the US several years ago. However, markets remain abroad for US-produced material, most notably in Mexico and countries in South America.
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