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 Q3 2019
Asia continued to see large import volumes from various sources, with most plants operating smoothly. China remained a key destination due to its relatively robust spot demand and ability to absorb large imports volumes, especially those that come with restrictions. Chinese port inventories remained near record-high levels throughout the third quarter, resulting in prices sliding to a 2019-low by the end of August.
Apart from the influence due to seasonal factors, such as the monsoon rain in India and various holidays in the region, demand and consumption were subdued but stable. Amid a bearish economic outlook for Asia, and the ongoing trade war, end-users did not see any improvement for their own industries. Most buyers withdrew from the spot market, citing sufficient volumes from term contracts.
Oversupply was the dominant theme in both Europe and the influential Chinese market, with weak buying interest and stocks at high levels.
Planned maintenance in September at Russia’s large Metafrax plant was joined by outages in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Brunei. Disrupted US supply had limited impact.
Stocks remained high in Rotterdam. OCI’s announced start up of its second Dutch unit over the “summer” after several months of delays perplexed some players, as it “did not yet contribute to sales volumes” during the second quarter.
Offtake continued to be stable or slightly softer. Downward pressure stemmed from softer European economic trends with a depressed automotive sector and formaldehyde market, with weaker than expected buying interest from both traditional and chemical applications.
One factor which may have bolstered consumption is consumers taking advantage of low methanol prices to run at high rates to maximise margins.
The US-China trade war and high stocks on China’s import-focused coastline dented global markets.
Supplies of US methanol were readily available to meet demand in the third quarter, despite production issues and tropical storm/hurricanes that hit the US Gulf coast area. US methanol exports in the third quarter more than doubled, compared with the same period a year earlier. With supplies of US product building, exports have remained high throughout the year. Global methanol market weakness and oversupply persist
US methanol demand entered a seasonally sluggish period with the number of spot trades tapering off during the quarter. Spot prices in the US plummeted to a three-year low, but this was largely a consequence of global oversupply rather than a reflection of 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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