US, Europe spot methanol jumps on Venezuela cocaine seizure

Source: ICIS News

2018/10/11

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The methanol spot market in the US and Europe rose higher this week after authorities in Venezuela seized a chemical tanker bound for Belgium carrying nearly 325 pounds of cocaine.

Traders said a methanol producer in Venezuela has been buying material this week to substitute for the seized vessel.

US spot methanol for November delivery traded at 127 cents/gal on Wednesday and Thursday, up about 7% from last week’s close, traders said.

European spot prices reached €395/tonne on Thursday, up about 6% from last week’s closing high.

The Venezuela National Guard stopped the ship, Jose Progress, on 8 October after finding 147.5 kilograms of cocaine during a routine underwater inspection of the hull, according to a national guard press release.

The Panama-flagged tanker also carried 40,000 tonnes of methanol and was bound for Ghent, Belgium, where it was expected to arrive on 20 October, according to news reports of the seizure.

Traders said the cargo was chartered by a methanol producer in Venezuela, though the producer could not be reached on Thursday.

Mitsubishi owns two Metor methanol plants in Jose, Venezuela, one with capacity of 830,000 tonnes/year and the other 850,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS.

The other plant, a 750,000 tonne/year unit named Supermetanol, is a joint venture between Venezuela state-owned petrochemical company Pequiven and Ecofuel.

The seized ship is currently anchored off Venezuela’s Puerto La Cruz, according to AIS data provided by Marine Traffic.