Glycol ether is widely used as a solvent in paints and inks. Other key non-solvent uses of glycol ethers are hydraulic fluids and chemical intermediates. Global demand for glycol ethers is estimated to be worth US$ 6 billion. In volume terms, demand was pegged at 3,140 kilo tons.
Asia Pacific is the largest market for glycol ethers, with China accounting for bulk of the demand. China is a leading producer and consumer of glycol ethers, with the country’s paint industry accounting for a significant share of the overall demand.
Glycol ethers are available as P-series and E-series; use of P-series glycol ether is promoted by government and environmental bodies owing to its relatively lesser impact on the environment. Currently, P-series glycol ether accounts for 71.6% share in terms of revenue.
E-series glycol ethers are comprised of ethyl, methyl, and butyl ethers. Depending upon repetitions of ethylene oxide, E-series glycol ethers are also categorized as mono, di, and triethylene. Owing to the presence of ethylene oxide, these ethers are highly soluble in water. Due to this reason, these ethers are widely used in water-based coatings. Their property as a coalescing aid is a key reason for their widening application in quality film formulation in water-based paints.
P-series glycol ethers are developed through chemical reactions between propylene oxide and chain alcohols. P-series glycol ethers are also used widely in paints, coatings, and inks. P-series glycol ethers offer high level of solvency for a number of resins.
Demand for glycol ethers is expected to remain steady owing to increasing application as cleaning agents. The global glycol ethers market will also be positively influenced by application in detergents – both at home, and in industries.
Currently, end-use industries have the choice of using either glycol ethers or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, volatile organic compounds are not as efficient as glycol ethers, owing to which the demand for glycol ethers will continue to remain steady. However, concerns regarding allergies and threat of developing rhinitis, asthma, and eczema can impede adoption.
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The global paint industry continues to be the largest consumer of glycol ether. Of the US$ 6 billion worth of glycol ether sold in 2016, demand from paint sector was worth US$ 3 billion. In addition to paint industry, cleaners is the other leading industry, which will continue to generate significant demand for glycol ethers.