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 Q2 2020
Asian buyers were generally well supplied throughout Q2. China faced oversupply and congested ports, with days to weeks of delays in offloading of methanol and surging tank storage costs. Some players saw this more as a consequence of falling demand throughout Asia, rather than increased production or increased volume availability. Many buyers were still struggling to take in their usual term allocations.
Demand and consumption slumped to their lowest points in decades as most Asian countries introduced various restrictions and lockdown measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. These measures were mostly lifted only close to the end of Q2, and demand did not have a chance to recover yet. Even for regions that had gotten the pandemic under control, downstream demand has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
European supply grew over Q2 due to weakened downstream demand and manufacturing shutdowns in the automotive and furniture industries. Planned methanol maintenances for Q2 were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. OCI conducted a turnaround at its BioMCN facility in the Netherlands and a number of other producers lowered operating rates. However, this did not slow the growing market length.
Demand plummeted in April and May as the coronavirus outbreak spread across Europe. Downstream demand was slashed and consumer confidence was badly affected. There were signs of demand recovery in some markets in June, such as MTBE and biodiesel. However, formaldehyde demand was limited and the furniture and automotive sectors remained weak as Q2 ended.
Following the crude oil collapse in early March, the US methanol market was largely unchanged until later in Q2 as some domestic production issues were cleared up. Domestic product availability was widely viewed as more limited, but as production continued to run smoothly during Q2, oversupply was a top concern for much of the market.
Consumption of US methanol in Q2 remained quite muted with less active than usual spot market seen for much of the quarter. Coronavirus weakened demand, particularly from China, impacted the global methanol market. Weaker demand caused US spot prices to sink to four-year lows as stricter coronavirus precautions implemented in much of the country.
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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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