Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) is the organic compound with the formula (CH3)2CHCH2C(O)CH3. This colourless liquid, a ketone, is used as a solvent for gums, resins, paints, varnishes, lacquers, and nitrocellulose.
MIBK is used as a solvent for nitrocellulose, lacquers, and certain polymers and resins. Another major use is as a precursor to N-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-N'-phenyl-p-phenylene diamine (6PPD), an antiozonant used in tires. 6PPD is prepared by reductive coupling of MIBK with 4-aminodiphenylamine.
Unlike the other common ketone solvents, acetone and MEK, MIBK has quite low solubility in water, making it useful for liquid-liquid extraction. It has a similar polarity to ethyl acetate, but greater stability towards aqueous acid and base. It can be used to extract gold, silver and other precious metals from cyanide solutions, such as those found at gold mines, to determine the levels of those dissolved metals. Diisobutyl ketone (DIBK), a related lipophilic ketone, is also used for this purpose. Methyl isobutyl ketone is also used as a denaturing agent for denatured alcohol. When mixed with water or isopropyl alcohol MIBK serves as a developer for PMMA electron beam lithography resist.
MIBK is an excellent solvent for resins used in the production of surface coatings, as well as being widely used in rubber chemicals for the production of tires, as a solvent in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and adhesives, and for specialized metallurgical extraction. Solvent applications account for nearly half of total MIBK consumption.
Methyl isobutyl ketone is made from acetone via a three-step process. Firstly acetone undergoes an aldol reaction to give diacetone alcohol, which readily dehydrates to give mesityl oxide. Mesityl oxide can then be hydrogenated to give MIBK:
Industrially, these three steps are combined. Acetone is treated with a strong acidic, palladium-doped cation exchange resin under medium pressure of hydrogen.
In India there is no local production of MIBK and hence entire requirement is being met by imports. Imports of MIBK have grown from around 16,400 tons in 2010-11 to 34,688 tons in 2017-18 worth Rs. 288 crores. Table 1 below provides the data on imports of MIBK into India.
Table1: Imports of MIBK into India
Cetex Petrochemicals Limited located Thiruvallur District,Tamil Nadu - Manali Industrial Areas the only unit in India making MEK .in 2014 had planned to make MIBK and Methyl Iso Butyl Carbinol (MIBC). MIBC is produced either as a recovered coproduct during methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) production or directly by hydrogenation of MIBK. The company had planned to put up 30,000 tons per annum MIBK plant. However, due to constraints in the availability of key raw materials company could not go ahead with implementation of the project. However, Cetex is still going ahead with plans to make 5,000 tons of MIBC directly through hydrogenation of MIBK.
Table 2 MIBK imports -Countrywise.
South Africa, Netherlands, USA, Korea, Japan and Taiwan are the major countries suppling MIBK to India. These countries together constitute 98% of the total imports.
MIBC is primarily used in solvent applications in the Ore Beneficiation for rare metals and also as a co-solvent along with SBA in the manufacture of the Lube Oil Additive, Zinc Di Alkyl Di Thio Phosphate, which is internationally dominated by the Lube Additive Manufacturing Majors Chevron Oronite, Lubrizol, Afton and Infineum International.
It is also used as a solvent in paints, rubber additives, solvent extraction, surfactants, inks and adhesives.
MIBK price trend
Fig 1 below provides graph of the unit value CIF prices of MIBK imported over the last 9 years
The unit CIF value has grown from Rs. 76 per kg in 2010-11 to a high of Rs. 120 per kg in 2013-15 before it started decling to a low of Rs. 63 per kg in 2016-17. The unit value again started rising thereafter and reached Rs. 89 per kg in 2018-19.
Global MIBK capacity is estimated to be in the region of 4.75 lakh tons and market size in volume terms is estimated to be around 4.45 lakh tons valued at US$ 1,027Mn in 2018. The market for MIBK in the next five years is expected to grow at 3% in volume terms to reach 4.86 lakh tons by 2023 and value is expected to reach US$ 1407 mn in 2023 at CARG of 6.5%.
The largest producers of MIBK are LCY Chemical (with plants in Taiwan and China), Kumho P&B Chemicals in South Korea, and Sasol in South Africa. These companies each accounted for about 12–13% of global capacity in 2017, and developed their MIBK production largely for the export market. LCY invested in capacity in China in 2009 to supply the domestic Chinese market, leading to lower exports from its Taiwanese unit to China. China is the only producing country expected to increase capacity during the forecast period. China has around 1.09 lakh tons of MIBK capacity. However, according to some news reports capacities to the tune of 55,000 tons is reported to be lying idle.
Table 3 provides the capacities of some of the global players of MIBK (in Kilo Tons)
Table 4 provides data on exports of MIBK by major supplying countries to the world in 2017.
Table 4: Exports of MIBK to the world by Major Suppliers: 2017
MIBK is known to be one of the best solvents for resins used in the production of surface coatings. Moreover, MIBK is also used as a solvent for more than 40 applications across a number of industries. As a result, the use of MIBK as a solvent is one of the most lucrative application segments of the global MIBK market, accounting for over 50% of the overall market in 2018. The segment is expected to retain its dominant stance over the forecast period as well.
However, the segment is expected to lose prominence to the rubber chemicals segment in terms of rate of growth over the said period, chiefly owing to the rising demand for rubber across a number of industries and applications. The segment of rubber chemicals constitutes around 15% of the market in value terms and is expected to expand at an 8.4% CAGR in terms of value from 2018 through 2023. Owing to this, the share of the segment in the global market is expected to rise from nearly 15% to 16.3% by 2023.
In terms of geography, Asia Pacific presently leads the global MIBK market. It is followed by North America and Europe. Increasing consumption of MIBK in automotive and crop-protection industries in China, India, and ASEAN countries is expected to drive the demand for MIBK-based applications in Asia Pacific during the forecast period. China is the leading consumer of MIBK in Asia Pacific, especially in the antiozonants application. Production and demand of MIBK is expected to continue to rise in Asia Pacific during forecast period as well, granting the region a commanding position in the global market in the near future. In terms of revenue contribution to the global market, Asia Pacific accounted for a dominant share of more than 40% in 2018.
MIBK prices are significantly affected by feedstock costs (acetone and its raw material propylene) and the price of natural gas since the production of MIBK is very energy intensive.