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 Q4 2020
Asian prices rose to record 2020-high levels as supply tightened. The fall in supply was due to lowered production in China and Iran from gas curtailment in winter, as well as unexpected shutdowns and delayed restarts in southeast Asian plants. In addition, Asian buyers faced strong competition from Europe, which was also facing supply tightness. Despite firming prices in Asia, a price spread between the region and Europe persisted, with many Asian buyers unable to purchase spot volumes.
Overall demand was relatively stable towards the year-end period, although a string of production issues saw some increase in spot demand. The Indian market had the strongest spot demand as buyers deemed prices for Iranian volumes as too firm and faced competition with European buyers for non-Iranian materials. The surge in prices were supported by tighter supply and higher European prices, rather than by demand.
Methanol supply tightened further in Q4 due to unplanned outages at Tomet’s facility in Russia and Equinor’s site in Norway. This together with persistent outages across the globe contributed to lower supply levels with imports also slowing in late Q4. Spot availability was extremely limited by December. Healthy demand made it difficult for producers to satisfy the market.
Methanol demand was healthy at the start of Q4 as downstream businesses were largely unaffected by the second wave of the coronavirus. A number of global methanol outages tightened the market and by December downstream demand exceeded sellers’ expectations. Players noted a surprisingly strong recovery in formaldehyde demand.
Q4 saw continued regional production cuts that helped to boost both spot and contract pricing in the US methanol market to two-year highs. But supplies are still available and there has not been a significant increase in demand for export material to put more of a dent in supply levels. Compared with global oversupply issues seen in 2019, product has had a drawdown.
Consumption of US methanol in Q4 saw some pockets of increases as more of the country reopened despite the ongoing pandemic concerns. But no significant downstream demand recovery has taken place in the market. As China and Asian markets begin to take in more product, US exports are expected to increase.
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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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