Brunei ships methanol to US, Philippines, Taiwan, S Korea

The Brunei Methanol Company plant in Sungai Liang. Picture: BT/Rudolf Portillo

Friday, August 27, 2010

BRUNEI'S methanol exports to China rose 163.3 per cent in July from June, while shipments have also reached the US, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.

In a report, Platts, a global provider of energy and metals information, said Chinese Customs data showed that in July, China received 33,789 metric tonnes (mt) of methanol from Brunei's sole methanol manufacturer, Brunei Methanol Company (BMC), from 12,831 mt in June.

BMC Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mohd Reduan Hj Mohd Yusof told The Brunei Times that the firm did some maintenance work in June, which reduced output, but exports resumed as usual in July. "Next week, we will have some maintenance work as well for a few days," he said, but assured that it would not affect production.

Mohd Reduan added BMC had started exports to the Philippines, the west coast of the United States, Taiwan along with China and South Korea.

BMC has 850,000 mt capacity per year.

China's total import of methanol in July amounted to 429,788 mt, with the bulk originating from Oman with 138,104 mt, the highest volume recorded since Oman began exporting methanol in 2007.

"The large volume from Oman was likely the result of additional production from Oman's Salalah Methanol Company, which started exporting methanol from its new 1.095 million mt per year plant in June this year," Platts reported.

Current market prices for methanol are listed online at US$310 ($430) per mt, up from the US$250-255 ($350-$360) per mt in July.

In a separate report, Platts also indicated that South Korean July imports of methanol came in at 148,370 mt, up 13.5 per cent from 130,730 mt in the same month last year, as imports from Iran increased by a whopping 61.2 per cent over the same period to 41,856 mt, according to data released by the Korea Customs Service.

Brunei was shown in the statistics to have provided South Korea with 4,737 mt the previous month.

BMC's first shipment of 10,000 metric tonnes of methanol set sail to China on May 25, marking the first major downstream activity for the Sultanate and an important milestone on the country's road to economic diversification.

As Brunei's first methanol exporter, the company is trying to capture as much value in sales as possible through a plan to diversify its market by selling to different countries and with the 850,000 mt per year production, it is eyeing three to four per cent share of the northeast and southeast Asia market.

The Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam approved the set-up of the petrochemical joint venture in August 2004.

This was followed by a joint venture between Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co Inc, Brunei National Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (PetroleumBRUNEI) and Itochu Corporation of Japan for the methanol project in November 2005.

BMC, a $600 million world-class methanol plant, is established on a 16-hectare lot at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park. The Brunei Times