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 Q1 2021
Overall supply was stable with no major plant disruptions during this period. Some slight tightening was initially expected due to upstream issues at a major northeast Asian MEK plant. But because of the lacklustre demand from the market, the expectations of tightened supply dissipated. In an atypical Q1, Chinese plants were mostly running at high rates, as feedstock remained readily available.
Appetite was mostly stable, with some pockets of increase due to costlier acetone and etac prices. In China, demand for the most part of Q1 was strictly on a need-to basis, while in import markets in northeast Asia, interest was healthy on a revival of economies. In southeast Asia, some downstream chose to buy the cheaper MEK to replace other costlier solvents in certain applications, but this was short-lived.
Although the beginning of Q1 saw some imports trickling in, slowly lengthening European supply, as of end-February a rebalancing occurred on a major European producer’s cautious inventory management ahead of a long turnaround in Q2. The container shortage continued to cap imports from Asia. Exports to the US and Latin America were higher in Q1. Asian bulk cargoes continued steadily in the first half of Q1 but January loads were delayed by the Suez Canal blockage that caused a further tightening in H2 March.
Demand in Q1 was slower than in Q4 where a net improvement had been observed from both the automotive and construction sectors. Stronger exports from Europe to the US and Latin America in Q1 helped keep the European demand keep in balance with supply until mid-March.
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).