Methyl ethyl ketone Prices, markets & analysis
ICIS provides independent and unbiased pricing information, news and market analysis for the global Methyl ethyl ketone market. Our network of price reporters, based in Asia, Europe and the US, deliver local insight for each of these markets, which is published in our individual weekly and daily price reports.
If you buy or sell Methyl ethyl ketone or related products, our reports, news and market intelligence will give you the prices and analysis of the factors driving the prices that you need to make confident commercial decisions.
Our editor gives their expert view
Methyl ethyl ketone Overview transcript
Methyl ethyl ketone or MEK is a solvent used mainly in paints and coatings and adhesives. It is also found in household products such as lacquer, varnishes, and paint remover.
Japan, Taiwan, China and the US are key exporters to markets such as South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand. Most sellers outside of China have long-term supply contracts, with distributors across Asia, and prices are usually settled on a monthly basis.
The Chinese tend to be spot sellers and any big swings in their supply can quickly impact regional prices.
The predominance of long-term supply agreements has done little to keep Asian prices stable in recent years, with demand growth outstripping capacity expansions in Asia, any tightening in supply due to plant shutdowns can effect prices significantly.
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Methyl ethyl ketone: Market overview
Updated to Q4 2014
The outlook for Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) for Asia Pacific in the fourth quarter of the year is expected to remain stable-to-soft, as market players largely do not expect a significant improvement in upstream naphtha prices in Asia in the same period.
Asian market players were broadly of the view that a price stabilisation for MEK, which started to take place in the third quarter of the year, would be normal and healthy for the market, given an increase of over $300/tonne in CFR NEA and CFR SEA prices since the third quarter of 2013 until prices peaked at $1,522.50-1,550/tonne.
For the US markets, US methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) prices continue their upward climb. MEK domestic prices are at their highest levels in more than two years, hitting 95-97 cents/lb ($2,094-2,138 tonne).
Domestic prices for MEK have risen 25% since January, from 77 cents/lb to 97 cents. The last time MEK was that high was in May 2012, when MEK hit 97 cents.
MEK increases have been driven by two things: strong demand from the fibreglass and coatings industry, and tight supply. Supply-chain and production issues by producers have tightened the market.
The market will be profoundly influenced by ExxonMobil's actions – whether the market remains tight or not will largely depend on whether its availability increases in Europe. There are also reports that Shell’s force majeure on propylene is likely to make the feedstock market shorter, although Shell has not commented. Demand is expected to be fairly sluggish over the Christmas period due to low downstream usage.
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Methyl Ethyl Ketone Methodology
About Methyl ethyl ketone
Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is a colourless, mobile, flammable liquid with an acetone like odour. It is soluble in ethyl alcohol, benzene, ether and acetone, and miscible with oils. It is also a fast-evaporating active solvent with an evaporation rate similar to ethyl acetate.
The main application for MEK is as a low-boiling solvent for nitrocellulose, acrylic and vinyl surface coatings. Around half of global MEK demand is derived from the paints and coatings industry. Its advantage is that low viscosity solutions can be obtained, having a high solids content, without affecting the film properties. These lacquers are used in the automotive, electrical goods and furniture industries.
MEK can also be used in rubber-based industrial cements and printing inks. Its fast evaporation rate makes it popular for rubber-based industrial cements, low-temperature bonding agents and as an azeotropic separation solvent for printing inks. It is also a component of the solvent system used in producing magnetic tape.
MEK is also a solvent required for the polymerisation processing of polystyrene, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), and styrene-butadiene-rubber (SBR).