Asia-Pacific, Led by China, Drive the Global Methanol Industry

Date: 19-Aug-2014
China is driving the global methanol industry, with tremendous demand from both its energy and petrochemicals sectors. It accounts for 87.9% of Asia-Pacific’s (APAC) methanol capacity, and 51.9% of the global methanol capacity. Despite a large planned capacity increase in other countries, China will remain the dominant power in the methanol industry, with a share of 44.8% of the global capacity by 2018.

China has huge demand for methanol for gasoline blending in the transportation fuel sector, and its plan to implement a mandatory 15% blending in gasoline is likely to see methanol consumption increase substantially in the future.

In the petrochemicals sector, methanol demand is driven by the adhesives, solvents, foams, plastics and paints industries. Steady growth in the Chinese economy is likely to create more demand from these sectors, and drive capacity. Furthermore, plans to develop additional Methanol to Olefins (MTO) capacity is forecast to occur in China. There are five active MTO plants in the country, as well as 13 planned MTO facilities with a capacity of around 9 million metric tons per year (mmty). Once all of these plants are operational, the requirement for methanol to be used as a feedstock will increase, and result in more methanol capacity being constructed. The following figure shows the estimated global methanol capacity share by country in 2013 and 2018.

China and the US to Add the Most Capacity in the Next Five Years

China and the US will be the largest contributors to methanol capacity, and will account for 49% of the global capacity addition over the next five years. In China, a demand-side push will drive capacity expansions, in turn increasing local methanol production. The country has 17 planned methanol plants, with a total capacity of 22.17 mmty. In the US, the capacity expansion will be driven by increasing shale gas production, which provides abundant and cheap natural gas feedstock for methanol production. There are eight planned methanol plants In the US, with a total capacity of 9.66 mmty.

Iran will be the third-largest capacity contributor over the next five years. Its capacity will be export-oriented, catering mainly to the Chinese market. It has five plants planned, with a total capacity of 8.72 mmty.

Prices Expected to Increase Steadily

Methanol prices are expected to grow at a steady rate over the next five years, although there will be regional variation:

  • The Middle East will remain the most economical region in which to produce methanol, meaning its prices will remain low.

  • North American methanol prices are expected to reduce due to a decline in the cost of production, and stagnant regional demand.

  • In South America and APAC, prices are likely to witness a gradual increase due to strong demand.

  • European prices may decline further in the next few years due to weak demand and the absence of any emerging applications.

Overall, global prices are expected to grow steadily from 2014.

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