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 2020
Asia was largely well supplied throughout the quarter, except for some tightness in southeast Asia in January due to plant shutdowns and a hint of oversupply in China, due to a shift in trade flow seen. Due to worries over detainment of vessels carrying Iranian material in India, buyers suspended all purchases of Iranian methanol starting February, resulting in Iranian material flowing into China, and other Middle East material sold to India instead.
Demand was hit by the global coronavirus outbreak, with the greatest impact seen nearer to the end of the quarter as the pandemic worsened outside of China, and more stringent measures were taken by various Asian countries. Consumption of downstream products, such as acetic acid, formaldehyde and plywood fell, resulting in less demand for methanol. However, a sharp fall in prices also meant that demand in the methanol-to-olefin (MTO) sector remained high.
Supply constraints in the first half of Q1 saw spot prices firm, particularly in February, when an open arbitrage led to increased exports to the US. Coronavirus concerns led to depressed market sentiment and lower purchasing appetite. Spot prices plummeted to a four-year low in March as market tightness gave way to bearish sentiment.
European demand was lacklustre in Q1 as players watched developments in Chin and the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Most adopted a wait-and-see stance. After US supply shortages were met by European exports, domestic methanol demand surged as the pandemic spread across Europe.
Prior to the crude oil collapse in early March, the US methanol market had remained somewhat shielded from the impact of the coronavirus amid some domestic production issues seen through much of the beginning of the year. The focus of the US methanol market remained largely on domestic product availability, which was widely viewed as more limited.
For US methanol, Q1 is not typically a strong quarter for demand and is widely viewed as a weaker quarter in the year. Coronavirus weakened demand, particularly from China, impacted the global methanol market. US prices sunk to nearly four-year lows in Q1 as stricter coronavirus precautions implemented in much of the US causing weaker demand.
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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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