The petrochemical industry manufactures products that are quite indispensable in today’s world.  This industry like, uses oil and natural gas as major raw materials to develop other chemicals which are then used to make other consumer and industrial products.  Petrochemicals can be converted into several thousand products; the most common include:

  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Paint
  • Fertilizer
  • Detergent
  • Dyes
  • Solvents
  • Textiles

Petrochemicals make up the largest of all the chemical sectors, occupying roughly 40 percent of the global chemicals market.  The petrochemical industry basically consists of two major divisions or tiers.

Petrochemical Industry Primary Division

The primary division of the petrochemical industry produces the basic chemicals from oil and natural gas. Essentially, this is where we get ethylene, which is then used to make other chemicals.  Ethylene is, basically, the most important organic chemical as it is the foundation for nearly everything else that we use today.

Ethylene is the result of cracking of fractions taken from the distilling of natural gas and oil.  The processes involved are:

  • Steam cracking of ethane and propane from natural gas and crude oil
  • Steam cracking of naphtha from crude oil
  • Catalytic cracking of gas oil from crude oil

Uses for Ethylene

Primarily, the manufacture of ethylene is for the purpose of making polymers.  In fact, polyethylene accounts for roughly 60 percent of all demand for ethylene in the world.   Another 16 percent of ethylene production is aimed at making ethylene oxide, which is also known as epoxyethane.

Primary petrochemicals break down into three groups, characterized by their chemical structures.  These are:

  • OLEFINS—butadiene, ethylene, propylene
  • Aromatics—benzene, toluene, xylene
  • Synthesis gas—methanol and ammonia

Across the world, annual production of ethylene totals:

  • 134 million tons (globally)
  • 50 million tons (in the Asia Pacific region)
  • 25 million tons (in the United States)
  • 20 million tons (in Europe)
  • 20 million tons (in the Middle East)

Petrochemical Industry Secondary Division

Secondly, ethylene can also be used to develop or produce other chemicals.  Mostly, when ethylene is not used in its principal form, it used to make ethanol and epoxyethane.  When a primary petrochemical, though, is mixed with another element, it results in another material.  For example, if you combine the primary petrochemical benzene with hydrogen, the result is the secondary petrochemical called cyclohexane; and cyclohexane is necessary for the development of nylon, which is quite a useful textile in today’s world.