The ICIS Glycol Ether reports are published in Asia, Europe and the US on a weekly basis. Asia and US markets focus on both the ethylene and propylene based glycol ethers within this report, while in Europe these are published separately as glycol ethers and propylene glycol ethers.
Our locally based reporters gather market intelligence on demand, supply, upstream movements, production schedules and any other key factors influencing prices at the time. Follow our universally-trusted reports to help you make informed commercial decisions.
Updated to Q3 2020
Supply dropped significantly in Q3. At least two producers lowered their plant operating rates due to technical issues. The sole domestic BG producer in China shut its plant several times because of either a lack of feedstock or poor margins. A producer in northeast Asia lowered operating rates due to shortage of upstream supply in mid-July. Poor weather conditions and the pandemic resulted in some cargo delays, which further tightened supply.
Overall demand in Asia picked up, but varied from region to region. In China, demand rose due to stocking-up activities before the Golden Week holiday. Buying sentiment was further boosted by tightened supply. Demand from downstream users improved as well. Demand was largely stable in southeast Asia. The downstream coating sector remained slow because of the pandemic and monsoon season, which weighed on distributors’ buying indications in the import market.
Supply was ample in early Q3. There were no scheduled shutdowns reported in Europe. Supply limitations arose in late July as exports from Dow Chemical in the US were restricted. Spot prices increased in August on the back of improved downstream demand. Availability from Dow remained limited for the rest of the quarter. European producer INEOS had spot constraints for BG in late-September.
Demand was mixed in Q3. Downstream demand improved gradually after a weak Q2. This coupled with some supply limitations led to spot price increases mid-Q3. However, the last month of the quarter saw demand tail off again, with prices falling as a result.
Third-quarter 2020 supply of US glycol ethers butyl glycol, butyl di-glycol, propylene glycol methyl ether and propylene glycol methyl ether acetate was steady and generally balanced with demand, which increased during the period as end markets saw some recovery from the effects of the persistent coronavirus. Some of the improving buying interest has been attributed to pent-up demand that has been emerging since the second half of 2020 began.
US BG, BDG, PM and PMA demand during the third quarter of 2020 was heightened by consistent demand from the do-it-yourself paint sector and the cleansers and disinfectants markets, and improved demand from mostly residential construction coatings. While coronavirus restrictions eased early in the period, resurgent cases kept some constraints in place, limiting anticipated Q3 growth. Commercial paint projects languished, creating uneven recovery despite steady auto-production growth, which was more gradual.
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Glycol Ethers Methodology
A large proportion of glycol ethers goes into the paints and coatings industry, though other uses include inks, cleaning products, plasticisers, brake fluids, pharmaceuticals, cosmetic and personal care products.
There are two groups of glycol ethers: E-series and P-series depending on whether they are made from ethylene oxide (EO) or propylene oxide (PO). They are used mainly as a solvent in a variety of domestic and industrial applications such as paints and coatings.
E-series glycol ethers are used as solvents and coalescing aids in paint formulations while higher molecular weight glycol ethers are used in hydraulic brake fluids. They are used as intermediates to make esters.
Propylene glycol ethers (PGE) are high performance industrial solvents used in paints and coatings, cleaners, inks and other applications.
In the electronics industry, PGEs are used with other solvents in the manufacture of laminates and semiconductor processes for making circuit boards.
Other applications include agricultural, cosmetic, ink, textile and adhesive products.
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