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 Q4 2019
Supply for butyl glycol (BG) was mixed in Asia. The market was slightly tight due to the turnarounds of several plants at the beginning of Q4, and supply was gradually back to normal from November with plants running normally. In China, producers kept plants running at 80% roughly due to tightness of upstream market. In southeast Asia, the market was tight at first due to turnarounds of some key plants and then became a little oversupplied after plants running normally. Deep-sea and Middle East supply was stable.
Demand for BG was weak in Q4. The unstable macroeconomics situation affected the market significantly, which led to the dull demand. Buyers in both China and southeast Asia adopted a wait-and-see stance, trying to avoid stocking excess inventory before the holidays and bought on a need-to basis.
European glycol ethers supply was readily available throughout the fourth quarter. Although there were concerns over supply disruption in October because of an attack on Saudi’s oil and gas facilities, this did not have a major impact on the European market. In late Q4 2019, INEOS Oxide conducted a planned maintenance which also had little impact on overall supply levels. The year ended with ample availability.
European glycol ethers demand spiked in late September/early October due to concerns surrounding Saudi production. Demand then softened in the first half of the quarter, while the second half was busier than expected for some producers. While destocking typically produces lower demand in December, some sellers had a stronger business month than expected. Others faced the effects of destocking and had to lower prices to remain competitive.
Fourth-quarter 2019 supply of US glycol ethers butyl glycol (BG), butyl di-glycol (BDG), propylene glycol methyl ether (PM) and propylene glycol methyl ether acetate (PMA) was generally balanced to mildly oversupplied given seasonally weak demand during most of the period. In mid-December, BG and BDG softened moderately, mostly on upstream propylene softness and the ongoing seasonal decline in buying interest from downstream coatings markets, while PM and PMA continued steady at year-end.
Overall BG, BDG, PM and PMA demand continued flat to weaker during the final quarter of 2019 amid a delayed and largely below-average downstream architectural and automobile coatings season. Inhibited demand also stemmed from economic uncertainty, including the ongoing US-China trade dispute. Likely short-term US interest in additional volume from China emerged late in 2019, however, as some orders were placed ahead of China’s Lunar New Year celebration in late January.
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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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