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.
Updated to Q2 2019
The Q1 methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) supply situation spilled over to the first part of the second quarter, with the market feeling the aftereffects of tightened supply. This was largely due to Taiwanese producer Tasco’s force majeure on its 120,000 tonne/year plant in early March. Market participants, including those in Taiwan, scrambled for material, fearing a shortage in their domestic markets. In the later part of the second quarter, supply lengthened on weak downstream demand, mainly in the Chinese domestic market. This caused Chinese suppliers to export more material and prices were driven down.
Taiwanese producer Tasco’s force majeure in early March caused a short spate of frantic buying in the first part of the second quarter. Market participants, including for the first time those in Taiwan, scrambled to stock up, fearing a shortage in their domestic markets. After the initial spurt of increased demand, the market slowed down on importers’ high stock levels and lacklustre downstream demand, particularly in the Chinese domestic market.
The methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) market swayed from tightness – on the back of a plant shutdown in Taiwan followed by shutdowns in mainland China in May – resulting in European molecule outflow to Asia, and a return to the balanced-to-long scenario seen throughout Q1. The second half of the month saw renewed imports from Asia as demand in China slumped on regulatory shutdowns downstream of IPA. Destocking of inflated MEK inventories after the Brexit deadline postponement also contributed to the market lengthening.
Global demand levels have been under par throughout in Q2, and Europe was no exception, Tightness felt in Europe in April did not help boost sentiment as some buyers were reviewing budgets down from May to June due to bleak economic forecasts while others were operating on a rollover basis despite being in the middle of the peak season. The US-China trade war cut China-US outflows, creating waves of very cheap MEK in Europe.
Supply of US methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) was mixed in the second quarter of 2019. MEK is not produced in the US, with the region relying on imports largely from Europe, South Africa and Asia. With the fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), supply was temporarily restricted with little ability for imports to flow into the US.
Demand for US MEK was stable through the second quarter. Demand for MEK is highest during the summer months as more than 60% comes from the paints and coatings industry, where it is used as a solvent. Because of a late end to winter, demand for MEK was stable.
We offer the following regional Methyl ethyl ketone analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Methyl ethyl ketone marketplace.
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The main application for methyl-ethyl ketone (MEK) is as a low-boiling solvent for nitrocellulose, acrylic and vinyl surface coatings.
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).
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