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Mexico ups intake of US-made MTBE – Argus

Dos bocas Refinery (Pemex)
Dos bocas Refinery (Pemex)

Steven McGinn, Argus Media

EnergiesNet.com 03 03 2023

Mexico increased intake of US-produced gasoline additive MTBE last year, continuing to rely on its northern neighbor for its octane enhancement program.

Mexico took in 1.1mn metric tonnes (t) of US-produced MTBE in 2022, the highest amount since 2019, according to the latest statistics from Global Trade Tracker (GTT). This was up from 658,678 t in 2021.

Mexico took in 79pc of all US-exported material last year. Total US MTBE exports in 2022 stood at 1.35mn t, up from 978,309 t in 2021.

MTBE is an oxygenate blended into gasoline to allow for a more complete combustion of components and is used in densely-populated areas. MTBE use is required in Mexico’s three largest cities — Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

Mexico also imports finished gasoline with MTBE already blended, which is not fully accounted for in the MTBE export statistics.

The octane booster was used in the US starting in the late 1970s, but it was phased out in the early 2000s in favor of corn-based ethanol. It is primarily exported to foreign markets from plants along the US Gulf coast. Producers include LyondellBasell, Enterprise Products, TPC Group, Indorama and ExxonMobil.

Mexico is by far the top destination for US-produced MTBE. Chile was second at 229,678 t in 2022, and Singapore third with 38,694 t.

Mexico MTBE demand should increase slowly in the years ahead, but more MTBE is expected to be exported neatly versus blended as the country increases gasoline production.

And with LyondellBassell starting up an expanded tertiary butyl alcohol plant in Channelview, Texas, MTBE usage outside of Mexico’s metropolitan zones could increase on that added supply.

For that to occur, MTBE will need to be priced competitively versus competing blendstocks to result in a higher usage in Mexico’s nationwide gasoline system, according to an Argus analysis.

If Mexico is not able to absorb that supply increase, US-produced MTBE may go to other destinations.

argusmedia.com 03 02 2023

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