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 2021
Supply was relatively mixed amid some spots of trouble leading to reduced production in some northeast Asian plants. Several domestic Chinese plants were also on maintenance during the first half of Q2. Importers’ inventories were quite steady, as regional markets saw some pockets of slowness amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Demand was mostly steady in a well-balanced market, despite some pockets of tightness. Sentiment sometimes slowed amid the enforcement of local government policies to curb the coronavirus pandemic. However, end-use in the inks and printings and adhesives sectors helped support demand.
The supply of MEK tightened in Q2 due to a long maintenance at Europe’s second biggest producer and a lack of Chinese imports because of high freight rates on shipped product. A slight rebalancing of fundamentals was underway in June, but increased exports kept availability snug.
Demand started to ramp up in the second half of Q1 and remained more or less stable through the first half of Q2. Mixed views were voiced about demand in the second half of Q2, with the larger players saying that they saw slightly slower demand from May to June.
Supply of US MEK became more balanced with demand during the latter part of Q2 after some snugness earlier in the year on some import limitations. Supply eased during the quarter on softening demand, although transportation and supply logistics continued to plague MEK and other petrochemical markets during the period and despite an increase in the percentage of containers missing scheduled sailings from Asia and Europe.
Demand for Q2 MEK from automotive and construction coatings was somewhat constrained – automotive by component shortages, and construction by high material costs and supply-chain issues, but some seasonality was evident, especially as the US economy continued to recover from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. Although demand remained strongest from the paint and coatings markets, buying interest was stymied by tight supply and rising costs that were up by 12% year on year during the period.
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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).