Acetone Enjoys Pandemic Popularity

July 1, 2020

Pandemic-related products are all receiving a tremendous amount of popularity right now, for obvious reasons. Who knew that Acetone is an essential ingredient for several of them?

That’s right. Hand sanitizer, face shields, and protective barriers all require this ketone solvent for production.

“Hand sanitizer made with Acetone??!!??”

No, Acetone is not a disinfectant and is not used as the active ingredient in any sanitizer! However, hand sanitizer is commonly made using Isopropyl or Ethyl Alcohol as the active ingredient. One of the 3 ways of manufacturing Isopropyl Alcohol is the catalytic hydrogenation of Acetone.

Another popular product right now is plastic, used for making face shields and protective barriers. MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) and other acrylics are commonly used to make these plastic products. According to IHS Markit, Methyl Methacrylate is the second largest end use for Acetone in the world.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant uptick in demand for Acetone, efficiently using up years of a supply glut in the U.S. Acetone market. (See Acetone Glut Likely to Last).

This is not the only effect COVID-19 has had on the Acetone market. In addition to creating noticeably heavier demand, Coronavirus has also had a hand in reducing Acetone production.

A co-product of Phenol, Acetone plants do not run only to meet Acetone demand. They primarily run to meet Phenol demand. Prior to the pandemic, Phenol/Acetone producers were pressing to meet high demand for Phenol. Now, Phenol demand has plunged amidst the COVID-19 economic slump. Major Phenol uses include plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) used in construction, which has taken a significant hit. Accordingly, plants have scaled back production in response to the decreased Phenol demand.

The net result? The U.S. Acetone market is no longer in an oversupply situation, and prices are on the rise. Some producers find themselves unable to fulfill all their contractual demands. On the positive side… market prognosticators view this as a situation that could ease in the coming months, as supply meets demand for COVID-related products and construction demand picks up.

With further questions about the U.S. Acetone market, and how this may affect you, reach out to your CORECHEM sales representative.