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 Q1 2021
Supply for glycol ethers had been sharply tightened in both CFR China and southeast Asia owing to ongoing plant issues and feedstock limitation. Some suppliers exported significant volumes to the US and Europe due to better netbacks, which further intensified the tightened supply.
Demand for imported cargoes in China picked up at a slower-than-expected pace, as distributors found it hard to pass the cost pressure to end users though domestic inventory was barely meeting basic demand. Cautious attitudes amid unclear market direction weighed on the buying sentiment as well. In Southeast Asia demand was still slow, with weak downstream consumption amid ample inventory.
Glycol ethers supply tightened over Q1 while prices soared to record highs. Upstream, shortages of n-butanol (NBA) following force majeure declarations by BASF and Sasol added to constraints for glycol ethers. Following a fire at Ludwigshafen, Germany, BASF declared force majeure on glycol ethers, according to sources. US imports tightened further after winter storms hit the US Gulf. Dow Chemical also declared force majeure on glycol ethers in Europe, according to sources.
Demand firmed due to short supply, and with sellers unable to meet this demand prices increased. There was no indication of a boost in any downstream sector driving the demand, players agreed it was mainly caused by extreme supply shortages in the market. Q2 is typically peak demand season for glycol ethers.
Already tight Q1 supply of US glycol ethers butyl glycol (BG), butyl di-glycol (BDG), propylene glycol methyl ether (PM) and propylene glycol methyl ether acetate (PMA) worsened following a mid-February winter storm that forced petrochemical outages in the southern US. That led to some severe allocations of glycol ethers, but those strictures were beginning to ease as the quarter ended. Producer and customer supplies of key raw materials also remained stymied by ongoing transportation constraints.
US BG, BDG, PM and PMA demand from the coatings and cleansers markets continued steady to stronger throughout Q1 despite some mid-quarter slowdowns in the housing markets caused by the winter storm. Month-on-month housing starts were down in February, as were sales of existing homes and new single-family homes attributed to low inventories and rising costs for lumber and other materials. Also, coronavirus cases were volatile during the period, with the disinfectants markets remaining strong.
We offer the following regional Glycol ethers analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Glycol ethers marketplace.
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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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