Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG): Production, Market, Price and its Properties

 

What is Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG)?

Monoethylene Glycol (MEG) or ethylene glycol is one of the important commercially available glycol. It is produced industrially from ethylene or ethylene oxide. In this process of manufacturing MEG two co-products are obtained, diethylene glycol (DEG) and triethylene glycol (TEG).

It is an important raw material for the number of industrial applications including manufacturing of polyester fiber, fabrics and polyethylene terephthalate used to manufacture bottles. Other industrial uses comprise of being used as a coolant, heat transfer agents, antifreeze and also as a hydrate inhibitor in gas pipelines.

 

History of Mono-Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene Glycol was first prepared by a French chemist Charles-Adolphe Wurtz from ethylene glycol via saponification in the year 1859. Later, The United States started semi-commercial production of ethylene glycol via ethylene chlorohydrination in the year 1917.

The first large commercial plant for manufacturing Ethylene glycol was set up at South Charleston by Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Co. in the year 1925.

Till 1929 this material was being widely used by almost all dynamite manufacturers which led to the licensing of the product in the year 1953 for its usage.

 

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Pricing Trend

How is Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG) Produced?

MEG is produced from ethylene, via the intermediate ethylene oxide. In this process, ethylene oxide reacts with water to produce ethylene glycol according to the desired chemical equation.  This process is catalyzed by using acids, bases or can even occur at the acidic or neutral level of pH under elevated temperatures.

The highest amount of Ethylene Glycol can be derived at acidic or neutral pH with an excess amount of water. Approximately 90% of ethylene glycol can be achieved under these conditions. Prominent by-products of this process are- triethylene glycol, tetramethylene glycol, and oligomers diethylene glycol.

Primarily ethylene glycol production process comprises of following steps:

Ethylene Oxide Production

In this initial phase, ethylene and oxides are fed together to a multi-tubular reactor forming ethylene oxides (EO). This exothermic reaction, which is conducted in fixed beds in reactor tubes, usually occurs in gaseous phase (using silver catalyst supported on alumina). Steam is generated during the process by the heat of the reaction occurring.

Ethylene Oxide Recovery

The product obtained from the reactor is fed to the EO absorber for lights removal by water. Part of gaseous steam is recycled in the reactor and the remaining is sent to a carbon-dioxide-removal unit comprising of an absorber and a stripper. In this phase carbon dioxide is separated to be further used in ethylene carbonate production.

In the later phase of this process, diluted ethylene oxide steam is removed from the absorber to be fed in the EO stripper. Here it is concentrated and recovered from the overheads. The crude form of EO is finally condensed which is directed to next section of the process.

Ethylene Glycol Production and Purification

Lastly, ethylene oxide is reacted with carbon dioxide to form ethylene carbonate. It is further hydrolyzed to form MEG and carbon dioxide. Both of the processes are carried out using a homogeneous catalyst in the liquid phase.

 

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Production Capacity by Region

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Production Capacity by Region

The world MEG production capacity for the year 2016 was 34.8 million tons. The global production was dominated by Asian countries which accounted for 15.1 million tons from the total production.

Asia holds a prominent share in the global market production of MEG as it has a large number of fiber and textile producers which demand polyester and Polyethylene terephthalate. China, India & Taiwan are the leading producers of ethylene Glycol among other Asian-Pacific countries.

Middle East Africa holds the second largest share in the production of MEG globally with the capacity of 11.9 million tons. The production is high in Middle East Africa to meet their increasing demand of MEG in different industries including fiber, Anti-freeze, and packaging.

North America contributes 5.7 million tons in the global production which is followed by Europe with the contribution of 2.1 million tons.

 

Global Mono-Ethylene Glycol Capacity by Process


The Global Mono-ethylene production capacity was 34.8 million tons in 2016. If we talk in terms of production capacity of MEG by its processes, Gas bases process of production dominated the market share by holding 46.9% share of the total market.

The gas-based process is followed by a naphtha-based process which accounted for 44.1% market share in the production capacity.

Remaining processes including Coal based accounted for 5.8% share followed by MTO with 1.9% market share and lastly bio-based process holding !% share in the total production capacity.

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Demand by Applications

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Demand by Applications

MEG demand is highly affected by its application. Ethylene glycol is used in a variety of end segment applications.

The global MEG demand was 26.9 million tons in 2016. The global demand was dominated by Polyester fibers which accounted for 14.8 million tons. The driving force for Polyester fibers market is increased the number of textile industries primarily in the emerging countries (Asian-Pacific regions).

Pet bottles are the second leaders of market demand for MEG globally accounting for 6.99 million tons from the global demand which is followed by PET Films with 1.61 million tons of MEG demand.

MEG is being widely used as antifreeze which has contributed for 2.15 million tons of market demand in 2016. As an anti-freeze, it is used for different uses such as for preserving biological tissues & organs or as de-icing fluids (windshields and aircrafts).

It is also one of the prominent raw materials used in a number of industrial processes. It accounts for 1.35 million tons of market demand from the industrial sector in the global market.

 

Mono-Ethylene Glycol Production Capacity of New Plants Set-Up 

MEG New Plants Set-up Capacity   

The statistics indicate an increase in production capacities in leading countries (China, North America, and Asia) from 2015 to 2016 due to new plant set-ups for production of MEG in these countries.

China is the leading country for new MEG plant set up in 2016 with the increased production capacity of 1.9 million tons from the previous year. It is followed by North America with 0.25 million tons of increase in production capacity from 2015.      

Middle East Africa has increased its production capacity up to 0.08% followed by Asian countries with an increase of 0.56 million tons due to newly installed plants of MEG.

 

 Mono-Ethylene Glycol Market Analysis (Segmentation, Driver, Constraints & Forecasting)


The Global mono-ethylene glycol market is expected to witness a significant growth in its forecasting period. The global market is expected to reach US$ 37bn by the year 2022 from US$ 26bn in 2016.

Market Segmentation

The global ethylene glycol market is segmented on the basis of applications, end-users, and region.

  • Based on application market can be segmented into the fiber, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), film, anti-freeze and other industrial applications.
  • Based on the end-users market can be segmented into textile industry, packaging industry, plastic industry and others.
  • Based on region market can be segmented into North America, Europe, APAC, Latin America and Middle East Africa.

Market Drivers

The major factors responsible for the growth of global mono-ethylene glycol market are as follows:

  • Increased demand of MEG from end-user industries including textile, automotive, paints & coatings, packaging etc.
  • Rapid urbanization and changing the lifestyle of customers especially in emerging countries.
  • MEG is highly used in PET segment and increased usage of pet packaging in industries such as pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food & beverages etc.
  • Increased use of ethylene glycol in polyester fibers due to its mechanical and chemical properties especially in Asian-Pacific regions
  • Increased economic growth and rise in individual income level.

Market Restraints

Factors hampering market growth are:

  • Fluctuations in prices of raw materials and their availability such as crude oil and feedstock.
  • Sustainability issues related to the material performance.

Market Opportunities

In the coming forecasted period ethylene glycol market can witness following opportunities:

  • The increased popularity of Bio-based MEG materials.
  • An increased amount of investment in Research & Development of environment-friendly alternatives.

Regional Analysis

Asian-pacific countries are leading in consumption & production of ethylene glycol and are expected to continue their position due to increasing textile and fiber production in these regions.

China India and Taiwan are the key consumers of MEG with the largest market share in the global market followed by North America because of increasing demand of these materials in fiber, anti-freeze and packaging industry in this country.

Key Players in the global market include Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Reliance Industries Limited, BASF SE, LyondellBasell Industries N.V., The Dow Chemical Company and Lotte Chemical Corporation etc.

 

What are the Properties of Mono-Ethylene?

It is commonly termed as ethylene glycol that is colorless, sweet tasting and odorless organic compound. It is highly used for various ends segment industries such as textile industry, packaging industry, and others.

Properties of MEG like its durability, hydrophobic features and tenacity prove it as an important raw material for various industrial applications. It is widely used for the production of polyester resins, fibers, and films.

Physical properties of this material allow it to be used as different materials such as coolant material, anti-corrosion agent, dewatering agents and chemical intermediate etc.

These physical properties include:

  • Chemical formula is C2H6O2
  • Appearance – Clear, colorless liquid
  • Molar mass – 62.07 g•mol−1
  • Density -1.1132 g/cm3
  • Melting point – 12.9 °C (8.8 °F; 260.2 K)
  • Boiling point – 197.3 °C (387.1 °F; 470.4 K)
  • Vapor pressure is 0.06 mmHg (20 °C)[1]
  • Viscosity – 1.61×10−2 Pa•s[2]
  • Solubility in water is miscible
  • Solubility – Soluble in most organic solvents

 

What are the Applications and Uses of Mono-Ethylene Glycol?

MEG is used both as a raw material in many of the industrial process and also as a final product for producing a different variety of goods. Primarily the usage of MEG in different fields depends on its properties.

Properties of MEGApplications/Uses of MEG
Chemical Intermediate for Resins·         Polyester resins (fibers, containers, and films)

·         Resin esters as plasticizers (adhesives, lacquers, and enamels)

·         Alkyd-type resins (synthetic rubbers, adhesive & surface coatings)

Solvent Coupler·         Stabilizer against gel formation

·         Freezing point depression

·         Heat transfer fluids (gas compressors, heating, ice rinks etc)

·         Al weather anti-freeze and as coolants

·         Water-based formulation (adhesives, latex paints, asphalt emulsions)

SolventMedium for suspending conductive salt in electrolytic capacitors.
Humectants·         Textile Fibers

·         Paper & Leather

·         Adhesives & Glue

Chemical IntermediateUsed as Solvents.

 

Basic Uses of Ethylene Glycol in Industrial Processes

MEG is primarily used as raw material in different forms for carrying out a number of industrial processes including:

  • Coolant & Heat Transfer Agent– Majorly ethylene glycol acts as a medium for convective heat transfer like in automobiles & liquid cooled computers. As a coolant, it has its usage in chilled water air-conditioners and as a heating fluid, it is widely used in geothermal heat pumps to transport heat.
  • Antifreeze- Properties of MEG disrupt hydrogen bonding when they are dissolved in water. Usually, it freezes at -12°C, but if it is mixed with it does not crystallize and thus the freezing point is depressed.

This antifreeze property of MEG is used for de-icing fluids for windshields and aircrafts. It is also used for preservation of biological tissues and organs.

  • Precursor for Polymers- In the plastic industry, MEG is one of the important precursors for a number of thermoplastic resins. It is highly used as a precursor for polyester fibers and resins.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which is used to make plastic bottles for carbonated soft drinks and bottled water also are prepared by using this material as a precursor.

 

  • Other Uses- It is also used as a dehydrating agent and hydrate inhibition. As a dehydrating agent, it is used in natural gas industry for removing water vapor from natural gas before processing.

As a hydrate inhibition, it is widely used to inhibit the formulation of natural gas hydrates (clathrates) in pipelines which are conveying natural gas from remote gas to processing facility. It can also be recovered by natural gas and reused as an inhibitor.

End Segment Uses Of MEG

Monoethylene glycol has its uses in end segment market in different forms. It is widely used as a plastic packaging material for products including pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food & beverage and others.

It is also applicable to be used as an ingredient for shoe polish, manufacturing some vaccines, fungal treatment  for wood, screen cleaning solutions, water-based hydraulic fluids and  even to control subsea oil & gas production equipment,

MEG is used in organic synthesis as a protection group to protect carbonyl compounds such as ketones and aldehydes.

Prohibited Applications for Mono-Ethylene Glycol

As MEG has high toxic level, thus it is prohibited to be used for a certain number of applications which are:

  • Portable water Applications.
  • In the formulation of food, drugs, and cosmetics.
  • Anti-freeze for portable water systems in seasonal homes & recreational water systems.
  • Anti- freeze to fire sprinkler systems.

 

What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of using Mono-Ethylene Glycol?

Ethylene glycol has properties which make it one of the most important forms of raw material for a variety of industrial process. It offers a number of benefits to manufacturers such as:

  • It has a similar structure to water which makes it miscible with the substance.
  • It is an easily available and low-cost material.
  • As it has a low freezing and high boiling point, it proves to be a great component in the manufacturing industry.
  • This material has good heat transfer capabilities
  • MEG is a kind of long-lasting compound.

 

Though it offers many benefits but there are certain limitations also associated with the usage of the product. These limitations are:

  • It is highly flammable and absorbs water rapidly.
  • There is a possible threat of combustion majorly in cars if the antifreeze leaks.
  • Inappropriate disposal of MEG especially at runways of airports may harm the environment.
  • Its sweet taste easily attracts kids and domestic animals which could be injurious to health.

 

What is the difference between Mono-ethylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol?

Ethylene Glycol (EO) and Polyethylene glycol (PEG) are the two prominent members of the glycol family. Both the compounds have commercial application importance.

The difference in both of these glycols is due to their chemical structure. Ethylene glycol is a kind of simple linear molecule, whereas polyethylene glycol is a polymeric material

Molecular Formula

Ethylene Glycol –The molecular formula of EO is (CH2-OH)2

Polypropylene Glycol- The molecular formula of PEG is (C2H4O)n+1H2O

Properties

MEG is an odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting compound. It is an organic compound which is used as a raw material to manufacture polyester fibers and for antifreeze formulations. These materials can be toxic if ingested.

PEG is a polymeric compound used in areas such as chemical, biological, medical, industrial and commercial. It is a clear liquid or a water-soluble white solid with a mild odor.

Production

MEG is produced by using a chemical compound ethylene. In this process ethylene oxide is produced as an intermediate and reacts with water to produce EO. Acids and Bases are used as a catalyst in this process.

PEG is produced by the reaction between ethylene oxide with water and ethylene glycol or glycol oligomers. In this process also both acid and bases are used to catalyze this process. The process of polymerization can be cationic or anionic depending on usage of the catalyst.

Uses

MEG is mainly used as an anti-freeze and also as raw materials for manufacturing polyesters such as pet in the plastics industry. It is also helpful in heat transfers especially in automotive and also for liquid cooled computers. Its properties also make it applicable to be used in chilled water air conditioning systems.

PEG has lower toxicity as compared to MEG, therefore, it is used as a lubricating coating for both aqueous and non-aqueous environments. It is used as a base for many skin creams and personal lubricants. It is also used as an ingredient in toothpaste or dispersant and also as an anti-foaming agent in food industrial applications.