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 2019
Supply for butyl glycol (BG) decreased in Asia. In China, supply availability was tight on a domestic plant having a turnaround in August and a southeast Asia supplier having a two-month turnaround from mid-August. Supply from the Middle East and South Korea was seen to be largely stable but spot supply from Taiwan remained absent. In southeast Asia, supply also tightened with the regional producer having turnaround, while deepsea and Middle East supply remained stable.
Demand for BG remained weak despite September being peak season. The downstream paints and coatings sector was impacted by the US-China trade war and economic slowdown. Buyers in China and southeast Asia were cautious and largely bought on a need-to basis. In China, some stocking up was seen ahead of the Golden Week holiday. In southeast Asia, some spot demand was seen as the regional supplier cut allocations to sell to China for better netback.
European glycol ethers supply remained ample throughout Q3 leading to ongoing market length. In August, European producer INEOS lowered production rates and implemented sales controls to reduce losses. In September, BASF conducted a planned turnaround, according to sources. This had little impact on the availability of product in the region due to healthy production rates.
The seasonal summer lull in demand contributed to reduced activity in July and August. Spot prices reached three-year lows for butyl di-glycol (BDG) and fifteen-year lows for butyl glycol (BG). Demand firmed in September which typically occurs after the summer holiday period. Concerns over supply in mid-September added to increased activity following the attack on Saudi Arabian oil and gas facilities.
Third-quarter 2019 supply lengthened on waning seasonal demand. Softer end-markets slowed sales, but despite rising inventories, pricing inched downward, largely on upstream steady-to-lower pricing. Despite a brief and nominal resurgence in demand early in the quarter, feedstock limited gains, and volumes continued to lag year-ago levels.
Broadly, demand diminished amid delayed and below-average downstream architectural and automobile coatings season. Buying interest continued to be inhibited during the third quarter by the economic and weather-related headwinds that opened 2019, which kept demand soft and lagging year-ago volumes.
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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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