Published July 2015
Paints and coatings continue to consume the majority of MEK. Worldwide, approximately 44% of MEK was consumed for this application in 2014. There will be little change in the world MEK market breakdown by 2019. However, there are slight regional variations. Although adhesives make up only 17% of the MEK market, this application will experience the highest growth rate during 2014–19.
Historically, MEK capacity was concentrated in the three major regions (United States, Western Europe, and Japan); these regions accounted for 75% of total MEK capacity in 2003. In 2014, the United States was no longer a producer and Western Europe and Japan together accounted for about 43% of global MEK capacity. China alone made up 38% of total world capacity in 2014.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of methyl ethyl ketone:
In 2014, MEK supply was tight—particularly in the United States. Several vessels were delayed getting into the Gulf Coast beginning in the second quarter; there were also some supply issues with product coming from Brazil, and an explosion at Shells MEK plant in the Netherlands resulted in a force majeure, ultimately leading to sales allocations.
Western European MEK demand has been impacted by increased use of recycling and process optimization. There has been widespread interest in reformulating to replace or reduce MEK usage, especially in times of supply shortages or high prices.
World MEK consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 1.7% during 2014–19. Most of this 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 about 2% during 2014–19. MEK consumption will increase only modestly during 2014–19 in the developed regions. The slower world consumption growth rate (compared with previous years) reflects a slowing global economy, competition from other solvents, and technology substitution in the coatings market as powder and waterborne technologies are growing at the expense of their solvent-based counterparts.