ICIS publishes weekly reports on the methanol markets in Asia, China, Europe and the US. Our trusted and reliable independent reports cover contract and spot markets in Europe and the US, and spot activity in Asia and China.
Market news and intelligence are analysed by our reporters in each location, and the information is reflected in market commentaries that include overviews, regional updates, production news, crude oil developments, plant capacities, graphics and shipping information. These reports are a valuable tool to allow you to keep up-to-date and abreast of factors driving prices, and ensure you are fully informed while making commercial choices.
Updated to Q1 2021
Chinese and Iranian production was able to recover from winter’s gas curtailment before the end of the first quarter, though increased imports from Iran were likely to only arrive in China in the second quarter. The restart of European plants also meant less competition for Asian buyers. India received Venezuelan material for the first time in decades. In southeast Asia, unexpected plant incidents resulted in supply tightness that saw buyers turning to China for volumes.
Demand was slightly improved due to increased downstream margins, with methanol prices reacting less than other petrochemicals to the crude recovery. The India market saw robust spot demand for most of the quarter and the price premium it had over other Asian markets, especially China, saw the first Venezuelan purchases in decades. Spot demand emerged in southeast Asia due to unexpected plant issues. Chinese spot demand remained slow with domestic prices lagging behind international prices.
The methanol market was extremely tight at the start of 2021 due to a number of planned and unplanned global shutdowns. However, supply improved over the quarter as Equinor returned from its unplanned shutdown and global production largely resumed. SIgnificant imports were rneeded to satisfy demand while Equinor shut down. Meanwhile, Russian producer Tomet continued to run at 50% capacity, while Socar’s shutdown lasted longer than planned.
Spot demand was particularly strong in January but declined over February and March as availability improved. Buyers were largely satisfied with contracted volumes and as spot prices were mostly unattractive, spot demand became sluggish over Q1. This led spot prices to soften in March. Demand from methanol derivatives was mixed, with formaldehyde performing well, while seasonality led to lower demand from fuel applications.
Supplies were cut in the US following the winter storm that shut down majority of the production in Texas. While restarts did not take as long as other downstream markets, there was a significant decline in available product. The decline in product availability in Q1 followed significant cuts throughout 2020 in the regional methanol markets due to economic factors.
Following the winter storm in February, downstream demand slowly rebuilt and the usage of methanol increased. But no significant downstream demand recovery took in the market during the quarter.
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Methanol is primarily used to produce formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid, with smaller amounts going into the manufacture of DMT, MMA, chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers and fuels.
Methanol is a colourless, volatile and flammable liquid with a characteristic odour. It is soluble in water, ethanol, ether and most organic solvents.
It is primarily used to produce formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid, with smaller amounts going into the manufacture of DMT, MMA, chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers, and fuels.
Methanol is seeing growing demand in fuel applications such dimethyl ether (DME), biodiesel and the direct blending into gasoline.
It also has many general solvent and antifreeze uses, such as being a component for paint strippers, car windshield washer compounds and a deicer for natural gas pipelines.
Methanol can also be used to extract, wash, dry and crystallise pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals.
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