The Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) markets are covered by ICIS on a weekly basis in Asia, Europe and the US. These benchmark assessments, used widely by industry, are key to keeping you fully informed of market developments.
Prices are predominantly for the spot market, though domestic and regional quotes also appear. Our locally-based reporters give informed but unbiased commentary on market overviews, upstream and downstream movements, economic news, graphs and plant shutdowns/operating rates, when applicable.
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Methyl ethyl ketone: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2018
Supply is expected to decrease in Q2 with the turnaround of a Japanese plant. The Japanese producer had started allocating supplies in Q1, in anticipation of its maintenance. It is unlikely to export material during their maintenance period in most of Q2. Regular buyers of the Japanese material will be affected, having to procure their cargoes elsewhere.
Downstream demand in the nitrocellulose, acrylic and vinyl surface coatings sectors during the warmer months is expected to increase. With a balanced-to-tight market supply anticipated, buyers expect to get their cargoes earlier to prevent a shortage in their domestic markets. Some buyers could also get their cargoes from Europe, as they did in Q1.
European MEK supply is expected to be constant to lower in Q2 2018. There are no capacity changes expected in Europe in 2018, but the arbitrage between Europe and Asia slowly closed late in the first quarter as MEK spot prices between the two markets converged. As a result, potential import availability is likely to be lower than in the previous quarter. The European MEK market is also susceptible to supply shocks because of the limited number of plants in Europe, which means that a force majeure at any major producer is likely to quickly lead to constrained supply.
European MEK demand is expected to rise in the second quarter in line with seasonal trends. The first quarter is a relatively low season for activity in the downstream construction and paint and coating sectors because of the cold winter weather. The second quarter typically sees higher demand in the downstream sectors for MEK and thus an increase in demand. GDP growth predictions for Europe are also relatively strong for 2018, which is also likely to benefit downstream sectors for MEK from the second quarter onwards.
Supply of US methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is likely to remain ample through the second quarter of 2018 as the market continues to readjust after tightness in 2017. MEK is not produced in the US, with the region relying on imports largely from Europe, South Africa and Asia.
Demand is expected to remain stable through the second quarter of the year, with an increase likely from the spring coatings season, when the warmer weather of spring leads to increased home-buying, new home construction and home remodel and repair projects.
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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).