Mono Ethylene Glycol (also known as MEG) is a clear, colourless, virtually odourless, and slightly viscous liquid. It is miscible with water, alcohols, and many organic compounds, and has the formula C2H6O2. It is the most important of the commercially available ethylene glycols as it has many industrial applications.
Mono Ethylene Glycol is produced by the oxidation of ethylene at a high temperature in the presence of a silver oxide catalyst. The ethylene oxide is then hydrated to yield mono ethylene glycol with di and tri ethylene glycols as co-products.
Global demand for MEG is strong with demand estimated at 18 million tonnes in 2008 and forecasts suggesting that this demand could rise to 25 million tonnes by 2015. Demand is strongest in China where approximately 70% of the world’s MEG output is consumed.
Storage and Distribution
Mono Ethylene Glycol can be stored in stainless steel, aluminium, or lined drums, tank cars, or tank trucks. It has a specific gravity of 1.115 and a flash point of 110 °C (closed cup). It is not regulated for transport on road, rail, air, or sea but it is classified as harmful, and is harmful if swallowed.
There is strong global demand for Mono Ethylene Glycol as it is a vital ingredient in the production of polyester fibres, films, and resins, one of which is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The PET is then converted into plastic bottles which are used globally. It is estimated that 70-80% of all the MEG consumed is used as a chemical intermediate in these polyester production processes.
The second largest market for MEG is in antifreeze applications where it is a component in the manufacture of antifreeze, coolants, aircraft anti-icer, and de-icers.
Mono ethylene glycol also has humectant properties and this makes it ideal for use in the fibre treatment of textiles, the paper industry, and in adhesives, inks, and cellophane.
It is also a used as a dehydration agent in natural gas pipelines where it inhibits the formation of natural gas clathrates before being recovered from the gas and reused.