ICIS publishes week 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 2019
Supply to the Asia market should remain stable and ample. Methanol supply could be affected by a worsening of winter in many countries, especially China and Iran, but most players were not expecting this to occur this year. A major Iranian plant might come online in March, but its volumes should only hit the market in the second quarter.
Market players only expected a likely rebound in demand to occur after the Lunar New Year celebrations in early February, with demand in January likely to be subdued from both the year end lull and lead up to Lunar New Year. Following that, demand and buyers’ sentiments would likely fluctuate with both upstream crude futures and downstream olefin prices.
A mixed outlook comes for this structurally short market: backwardated pricing in late December indicated expectations of lengthening supply through Q1. However reduced local supply in the near-term came as fire broke out at Europe’s largest methanol plant in Norway. The timeline was unclear on a shutdown for investigation and repairs. OCI’s BioMCN mothballed plant is expected to open.
Crude oil volatility and Chinese methanol values are front and centre for many market players. European demand is mostly expected to be steady and healthy, though international economic jitters from US trade aggression with China and the EU will be a concern for global methanol consumption, especially in China.
Recent trade data shows that 2019 could be the year US methanol exports exceed imports on an absolute basis. US October methanol exports (the latest month available) passed imports for the third month in a row, stemming from new supply at the 1.8m tonne/year OCI Natgasoline unit in Beaumont, Texas that started in late June.
The outlook for early 2019 must account for price history showing a definite tendency toward flat to lower prices in the January-April period because of weak winter demand. Price history for the past decade favoured a flat or down posting for January, as did happen, and it also shows a high likelihood of a roll or decline in February, March and April.
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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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