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Petrochemicals

Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane. The two most common petrochemical classes are olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene, toluene and xylene isomers). Oil refineries produce olefins and aromatics by the fluid catalytic cracking of petroleum fractions. Chemical plants produce olefins by steam cracking of natural gas liquids like ethane and propane. The catalytic reforming of naphtha produces aromatics. Olefins and aromatics are the building-blocks for a wide range of materials such as solvents, detergents, and adhesives. Olefins are the basis for polymers and oligomers used in plastics, resins, fibers, elastomers, lubricants, and gels.

Primary petrochemicals are divided into three groups depending on their chemical structure:

  • Olefins includes ethylene, propylene, and butadiene. Ethylene and propylene are important sources of industrial chemicals and plastics products. Butadiene is used in making synthetic rubber.
  • Aromatics includes benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Benzene is a raw material for dyes and synthetic detergents, and benzene and toluene for isocyanates. MDI and TDI used in making polyurethanes. Manufacturers use xylenes to produce plastics and synthetic fibers
  • Synthesis gas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen used to make ammonia and methanol. Ammonia is used to make the fertilizer urea and methanol is used as a solvent and chemical intermediate.

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