Worldwide chemical profile: MIBK

24 August 2009 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Uses
Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) is mainly used in solvent applications, primarily for surface coatings. It is also widely used as an anti-ozonant (a substance which prevents or slows down degradation due to ozone) in tires.

It is also used in rare-metal extraction, as a process solvent for pharmaceuticals and adhesives, and as a chemical intermediate. MIBK's dewaxing and separating properties can be used to purify pharmaceuticals, mineral oils, tall oil, stearic acid and butanol.

Supply/demand
Some producers say that demand in Europe started to show a small improvement in July. However, demand remains low overall and has been adversely affected by the slump in the automotive sector. Suppliers report a drop in demand of around 40% in the first half of 2009 compared with 2008.

Declining demand and world oversupply prompted US producer Shell Chemicals to close its Deer Park, Texas, solvents plant in November 2008. The Netherlands-based producer LyondellBasell Industries will close its solvents unit at Berre, France, on October 1. It bought the refinery and assets in Berre from Shell in 2008. The move will bring Europe to a more balanced position, but surplus capacity remains worldwide.

Prices
European spot prices have stabilized since May in the range €950-1,000/tonne FD NWE, although several distributors reported business in mid-August at €920-940/tonne. Activity is lackluster, particularly in southern Europe, with very few trades completed.

Producers say margins are being severely squeezed as feedstock prices have risen since the start of 2009, but weak demand has thwarted efforts to raise MIBK prices and fully recover costs.

Technology
There are two main routes to produce MIBK. One is a three-step process via acetone condensation, which gives diacetone alcohol that readily dehydrates to give mesityl oxide, which is then hydrogenated to MIBK.

MIBK is also produced from isopropanol in a mixed ketones process with di-isobutyl ketone (DIBK) and acetone as coproducts. Methyl isobutyl carbinol, DIBK and mesityl oxide are coproduced or recovered during the process.

Outlook
Consumption of MIBK is expected to stay relatively flat in developed countries. The strongest growth is in Asia, and particularly China where several capacity additions have come on stream in the past three years.

Asian demand for anti-ozonants is tipped to grow at 4-5%/year, but just 0-1%/year in Western Europe and the US, according to global consultancy SRI Consulting. Significant demand growth is also expected in India

No further new capacity is planned. South Africa's Sasol says it will start up its 30,000 tonne/year expansion in Sasolburg, in late 2009 or early 2010. Taiwan's Lee Chang Yung Chemical says it has no plans currently to start its second 25,000 tonne/year line in Zhenjiang, China, because of poor demand. The first 25,000 tonne/year line started up in early 2009.

Profile last published April 3, 2006

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GLOBAL MIBK CAPACITY, '000 TONNES/YEAR

Company Location Capacity
Arkema La Chambre, France 15
Carboclor Campana, Argentina* 8
Celanese La Cangrejera, Mexico 50
Dow Chemical Institute, West Virginia, US 35
Eastman Chemical Kingsport, Tennessee, US 9
Jilin Chemical Jilin, China 30
Kumho P&B Yosu, South Korea 30
Kyowa Hakko Yokkaichi, Japan 15
Lee Chang Yung Chemical Lin Yuan, Taiwan 20
Mitsubishi Chemical Mizushima, Japan 20
Mitsui Chemicals Ichihara, Japan 30
Iwakuni, Japan 30
Ningbo ­Oceanking Chemical ­Developing Ningbo, China 15
Relene Petrochemicals Thane, India 7
Rhodia Brasil Paulinia, Brazil 25
Sasol Solvents Sasolburg, South Africa 30
Shell Chemical Berre, France** 25
Pernis, the Netherlands 45
Showa Denka Tokuyama, Japan 20
Taizhou Petrochemical Taizhou, China 15
Zhenjiang LCY General Chemical Zhenjiang, China 25
 SOURCES: ICIS PLANTS & PROJECTS

*Operational status unclear
**To close October 1, 2009

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By: Elaine Burridge
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