Published March 2014
Over half of all glycol ether consumption (including E-series and P-series) is for use as a solvent in various formulations, such as paints, inks and cleaning fluids. Glycol ethers combine the solubility characteristics of both ethers and alcohols (or esters), as both functional groups (ether and hydroxyl [or carboxyl]) are present in the molecule. Nonsolvent uses for glycol ethers include hydraulic and brake fluids, anti-icing agents and chemical intermediates.
In 2009, the United States was the worlds largest producer, consumer and exporter of E-series glycol ethers; however, by 2013, China had become the largest consumer, accounting for about 23% of global consumption of E-series glycol ethers, followed by the United States, Western Europe and Japan with 21%, 19% and 7%, respectively. The United States continues to be the largest producer and exporter; it accounted for 40% of global production in 2013, followed by Western Europe and China with 21% and 11%, respectively.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of E-series glycol ethers:
Growth in E-series glycol ether consumption will be greatest in China, with an average annual rate of 7% during 2013–2018, followed by the Middle East and Other Asia (excluding China and Japan) with growth rates of about 4.5% during this period, respectively. Overall, growth in the consumption of E-series glycol ethers will average 3.7% during 2013–2018.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of P-series glycol ethers:
Western Europe is the worlds largest producer and consumer of P-series glycol ethers. In 2013, Western Europe accounted for about 35% of the global consumption of P-series glycol ethers; however, this was down from 41% in 2009. The next-largest consumers were China and the United States, which accounted for 28% and 19%, respectively, in 2013. Once again, China increased its global share, from 18% in 2009. In 2013, Western Europe accounted for 38% of global production, followed by China and the United States, with 29% and 23%, respectively. Since 2010, China has been a net exporter of P-series glycol ethers
Overall growth in P-series glycol ether consumption will be greatest in China at nearly 10% per year, followed by the Other Asia Pacific region with just over 5% average annual growth. On a global basis, P-series glycol ether consumption will be the faster-growing of the two glycol ether segments, averaging about 4.7% per year through 2018.
Several significant changes have influenced the entire glycol ether market during the last decade:
- Growth of water-based surface coatings as replacements for solvent-based coatings. The growth of water-based coatings that use glycol ethers as coalescing agents has been the major factor behind the growth of the entire glycol ether market.
- Growth of propylene oxide–based glycol ethers (P-series). This growth has been due primarily to increased concern about the toxicological effects of some ethylene oxide–based glycol ethers.
- Continuing changes in E-series glycol ether products. In the major regions of the world, growth has been primarily for the butyl products (and some smaller-volume specialty glycol ethers); the methyl and ethyl product groups have been in decline.