Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
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Published: May 2012
Methyl ethyl ketone is a colorless, stable, flammable liquid with an odor similar to that of acetone. It is miscible with water and a variety of organic solvents. Its exceptional solvency makes it a powerful and valuable solvent for many substances, especially resinous materials.
Asia (primarily China and Other Asia) has gained market share over the years and will continue to do so during 2011–2016, driven by continued economic growth in these emerging markets. A dip in market share in 2011 reflects a drop in Japanese consumption related primarily to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of methyl ethyl ketone:
Coating solvents continue to consume the majority of MEK. Worldwide, almost 50% of MEK was consumed for this application in 2011. There will be little change in the world MEK market breakdown by 2016. However, there are slight regional variations in the consumption pattern. Although printing inks make up only 8% of the MEK market, this application will experience the second-highest growth rate during 2011–2016, especially in China.
World MEK consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of about 3.5% during 2011–2016. Most of that growth will come from Asia Pacific, especially China where its use in most applications (coatings, adhesives, artificial leather and printing inks) is expected to grow at an average annual rate of over 8% during 2011–2016. MEK consumption in the developed regions will increase only modestly during 2011–2016.
Escalating raw material costs prompted MEK price increases through most of 2008 before the economic crisis brought them down in 2009. With improved demand and rising feedstock costs, prices started to increase near the middle of 2009. Price increases in 2010 were attributed primarily to a tight supply situation that was exacerbated in early to mid-2011 by the March 2011 disaster in Japan. Prices hit record highs in 2011. As 2011 ended and 2012 began, weaker demand brought prices back down.