Europe MEK prices up over 40% on Pernis force majeure

15 August 2017 17:45 Source:ICIS News

Shell Pernis worker observes site. Source - ShellLONDON (ICIS)--European methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) prices have risen more than 40% since the end of July on the back of the ongoing force majeure declared by European producer Shell at its refinery and petrochemicals complex in Pernis, the Netherlands, according to sources on Friday.

The European MEK market has tightened severely following the force majeure declaration on chemical solvents at the plant at the beginning of August.

Sources also saw limited supply from ExxonMobil's MEK plant in Fawley, UK, which market sources attributed to the producer structurally exporting a great deal of material to the US market. ExxonMobil does not comment on its operations.

Spot prices were assessed this week at €1,900-2,000/tonne FD (free delivered), up €100/tonne on the low end and €180/tonne on the high end, putting them almost 42% higher than prices at the end of July.

Offers were also heard at €3,000/tonne FD and above due to the extremely tight market, particularly from traders and distributors, but these could not be widely confirmed for the moment.

"[We are] hearing prices as high as €3,000/tonne FD...It's fair to say that people would pay [higher prices], but it's a fairly aggressive stance to take and not representative," one producer said.

"We are feeling that pricing is not a big topic in discussions; people are more concerned about availability," it added.

However, some sources regarded prices in the €2,000s/tonne FD as unrealistic and said that prices were either likely to increase to €3,000/tonne or were already at this level, with the market yet to fully settle on a price.

"It is hard to source material on the spot market if not impossible.  Prices are somewhere around €3,000/tonne FD, anybody selling at lower prices is crazy," a distributor said.

Sources said that there has been a greatly increased number of offers from Chinese and other Asian sellers for MEK, but any orders placed now would require approximately six to eight weeks of shipping time to arrive.

"We have Asian and Chinese material coming in... it stops us from paying vast [prices] in interim. It's not really proper market, hardly anyone [is] offering." another distributor said.

It was also unclear when MEK production might return to former levels at Pernis, despite Shell's intention to restart most units at the site by the end of August. One source said that it might take until the end of September for MEK production to be running at former levels.

Shell does not comment on its production or force majeure status.  

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Pictured: Pernis site worker (Source: Shell)

By Chris Barker