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Published: February 2013
Ketene is a colorless, highly reactive gas that is irritating to the lungs. It readily polymerizes and cannot be shipped or stored in the gaseous state. It is usually not isolated but is consumed as produced. The major use for ketene is in the manufacture of acetic anhydride and diketene. Sorbic acid, cinnamic acids and chloroacetyl chloride are also commercial derivatives of ketene.
Diketene is produced by the autodimerization of ketene and is a more stable product that can be stored for weeks under refrigeration. Diketene is a colorless, pungent liquid that polymerizes slowly on standing. Derivatives of diketene include acetoacetic esters, amides and anilides.
Ketene and diketene are important industrial intermediates generally used at their production sites.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of ketene/diketene:
Since the mid-2000s, there has been a steady shift of regional production and consumption of ketene from the major markets in the United States and Western Europe to Asia outside of Japan. China is now the leading ketene producing and consuming country. China has been increasing its acetic anhydride capacity (for cellulose acetate flake), driving domestic ketene demand while reducing the acetic anhydride supply needed from other regions such as the United States and Western Europe. At the same time, India has been increasing its capacity for diketene derivatives. This trend is expected to continue in the next few years as these countries experience high annual growth rates for ketene consumption. In contrast, the United States, Western Europe and Japan will all have limited growth.
In other regions of the world, such as Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and Central and Eastern Europe, ketene use is and will remain minimal. There may be some future growth in the Middle East since a major acetyl facility started up in Saudi Arabia in 2009, but to what degree remains uncertain.
Acetic anhydride production (the majority of which is used for cellulose acetate flake manufacture) will continue to drive ketene consumption. Overall, it is expected that world ketene consumption will grow 2–3% annually during 2012-2018. The main drivers of this growth will be China and India. China is expected to have additional acetic anhydride and sorbic acid production, while India is expanding in diketene derivatives. The remainder of the major ketene-producing regions will have very limited growth or no growth at all (or possible decline).