30 April 2010 15:40 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS news)--High methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) prices in Europe and tight supply have led to increased interest in ethyl acetate (etac) material, producers and buyers said on Friday.
“We have already seen a move towards replacing MEK with etac, and we are sold out [of etac] for April,” said a producer.
With etac spot offers regularly around €500/tonne ($658/tonne) lower than MEK offers, some applications were able to substitute etac for the use of MEK, which has boosted demand for etac.
“The switch to etac could make sense. It’s €500/tonne cheaper at the moment,” said an MEK trader.
The downstream applications that are able to substitute etac for MEK are printing, automotives and a few niche applications, MEK sources said.
“Not all applications are able to switch, but there will be some sectors that notice a difference,” said one reseller.
Etac prices were mostly assessed between €840-870/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest ?xml:namespace>
One etac producer said there was evidence of prices moving closer to €900/tonne FD NWE for May.
The tight supply of MEK was attributed to stronger-than-expected demand in March, which decreased production stockpiles.
The majority of MEK producers said that they were now sold out for the rest of April.
Many market sources also spoke of possible production problems at a major European MEK producer, which could not be verified.
“I’ve never seen the MEK market as tight as it is,” said one trader.
Low availability of MEK has driven prices sharply higher in recent weeks, with material currently trading at €1,200-1,300/tonne FD NWE, up by €330-380/tonne from 27 March, according to ICIS pricing.
It has been the sharp rise in MEK prices that has prompted players to consider switching to etac, they said.
“We can’t easily switch to etac in our business, but there is certainly a section of MEK buyers who can,” said one large solvents customer.
MEK prices were increasing this week due to low availability, with some numbers as high as €1,800/tonne, although this was not seen as representative of the overall market.
“[MEK is] not available. If you can find product, it’s €1,500-1,800/tonne…,” said a trader.
($1 = €0.76)
Mark Victory contributed to this article.
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