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 Q3 2020
Sentiment was bullish due to a few unexpected production disruptions in southeast Asia and the Middle East, including a plant unable to resolve its issue of producing methanol that was slightly off-specification. Not only was spot supply extremely tight, but some buyers also saw disruptions to their term contracts, forcing them to turn to the spot market. Most Indian buyers remained unable to purchase sanctioned material.
Generally, demand improved as many markets recovered from the initial impact of the pandemic. Some downstream industries, such as the MTO and pharmaceutical sectors, performed above expectations. Against previous expectations, Indian spot demand remained the strongest in the region for most of Q3, as most traders and buyers remained unable to purchase sanctioned methanol. The increased demand for spot volumes from India also meant that buyers from other markets found it difficult to keep up.
European supply tightened in Q3 due to planned and unplanned shutdowns at home and abroad. In Europe, BPRP’s unplanned outage and scheduled maintenance at Metafrax, Shell, Equnior and Tomskneftekhim all took place during the quarter. Overseas shutdowns contributed to constrained European supply as exports increased.
European methanol demand increased in early Q3 as downstream markets recovered after a weak Q2. Demand firmed after several planned and unplanned global shutdowns. Tighter supply conditions and growing demand drove spot prices higher and saw the first increase in quarterly contract prices since 2018. Demand peaked in September with a minimum of 137,700 tonnes traded in the spot market.
Q3 saw regional production cuts that helped to boost both spot and contract pricing in the US methanol market to six-month highs. But supplies are still readily 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 Q3 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.
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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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