Petrochemicals (also known as petroleum distillates) 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, palm fruit 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 fluid catalytic cracking of petroleum fractions. Chemical plants produce olefins by steam cracking of natural gas liquids like ethane and propane. Aromatics are produced by catalytic reforming of naphtha. 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.[1][2]

Global ethylene and propylene production are about 115 million tonnes and 70 million tonnes per annum, respectively. Aromatics production is approximately 70 million tonnes. The largest petrochemical industries are located in the USA and Western Europe; however, major growth in new production capacity is in the Middle East and Asia. There is substantial inter-regional petrochemical trade.

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

In 2007, the amounts of ethylene and propylene produced in steam crackers were about 115 Mt (megatonnes) and 70 Mt, respectively.[3] The output ethylene capacity of large steam crackers ranged up to as much as 1.0 – 1.5 Mt per year.[4]

The adjacent diagram schematically depicts the major hydrocarbon sources and processes used in producing petrochemicals.[1][2][5][6]

Petrochem Feedstocks
Petrochemical feedstock sources

Like commodity chemicals, petrochemicals are made on a very large scale. Petrochemical manufacturing units differ from commodity chemical plants in that they often produce a number of related products. Compare this with specialty chemical and fine chemical manufacture where products are made in discrete batch processes.

Petrochemicals are predominantly made in a few manufacturing locations around the world, for example in Jubail & Yanbu Industrial Cities in Saudi Arabia, Texas & Louisiana in the US, in Teesside in the Northeast of England in the United Kingdom, in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and in Jamnagar & Dahej in Gujarat, India. Not all of the petrochemical or commodity chemical materials produced by the chemical industry are made in one single location but groups of related materials are often made in adjacent manufacturing plants to induce industrial symbiosis as well as material and utility efficiency and other economies of scale. This is known in chemical engineering terminology as integrated manufacturing. Speciality and fine chemical companies are sometimes found in similar manufacturing locations as petrochemicals but, in most cases, they do not need the same level of large scale infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, storage, ports and power, etc.) and therefore can be found in multi-sector business parks.

The large scale petrochemical manufacturing locations have clusters of manufacturing units that share utilities and large scale infrastructure such as power stations, storage tanks, port facilities, road and rail terminals. In the United Kingdom for example, there are 4 main locations for such manufacturing: near the River Mersey in Northwest England, on the Humber on the East coast of Yorkshire, in Grangemouth near the Firth of Forth in Scotland and in Teesside as part of the Northeast of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC). To demonstrate the clustering and integration, some 50% of the United Kingdom's petrochemical and commodity chemicals are produced by the NEPIC industry cluster companies in Teesside.

Petrochemical plant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


In 1835, Henri Victor Regnault, a French chemist left vinyl chloride in the sun and found white solid at the bottom of the flask which was polyvinyl chloride. In 1839 Eduard Simon, discovered polystyrene by accident by distilling storax. In 1856, William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye, Mauveine. In 1888, Friedrich Reinitzer, an Austrian plant scientist observed cholesteryl benzoate had two different melting points. In 1909, Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented bakelite made from phenol and formaldehyde. In 1928 synthetic fuels invented using Fischer-Tropsch process. In 1929, Walter Bock invented synthetic rubber Buna-S which is made up of styrene and butadiene and used to make car tires. In 1933, Otto Röhm polymerized the first acrylic glass methyl methacrylate. In 1935, Michael Perrin invented polyethylene. After World War II, polypropylene was discovered in the early 1950s. In 1937, Wallace Hume Carothers invented nylon. In 1946, he invented Polyester. polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are made from ethylene and paraxylene. In 1938, Otto Bayer invented polyurethane. In 1941, Roy Plunkett invented Teflon. In 1949, Fritz Stastny turned polystyrene into foam. In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar.[7]


The following is a partial list of the major commercial petrochemicals and their derivatives:

Chemicals produced from ethylene
Chemicals produced from propylene


Chemicals produced from benzene
Chemicals produced from toluene
Chemicals produced from xylenes

List of petrochemicals

Petrochemicals Fibers Petroleum Chemicals
Basic Feedstock

2-Ethylhexanol (2-EH)
Acetic acid
Acrylonitrile (AN)
Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (dioctyl phthalate)
Dimethyl terephthalate (DMT)
1,2-Dichloroethane (ethylene dichloride or EDC)
Ethylene glycol (EG)
Ethylene oxide (EO)
Formaldehyde Moulding Compound (FMC)
Linear alkyl benzene (LAB)
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)
Propylene oxide
Purified terephthalic acid (PTA)
Styrene monomer (SM)
Thermosetting Resin (Urea/Melamine)
Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM)
Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM)

Acrylic fiber
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
Acrylonitrile styrene (AS)
Polybutadiene (PBR)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Polyethylene (PE)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
Polypropylene (PP)
Polystyrene (PS)
Styrene butadiene (SBR)
Acrylic-formaldehude (AF)
Marine fuel oil
Petroleum refining
Adhesives and sealants
Construction chemicals
Corrosion control chemicals
Cosmetics raw materials
Electronic chemicals and materials
Flavourings, fragrances, food additives
Pharmaceutical drugs
Specialty and industrial chemicals
Specialty and industrial gases
Inks, dyes and printing supplies
Packaging, bottles, and containers
Paint, coatings, and resins
Polymer additives
Specialty and life sciences chemicals
Surfactants and cleaning agents

See also


  1. ^ a b Sami Matar and Lewis F. Hatch (2001). Chemistry of Petrochemical Processes. Gulf Professional Publishing. ISBN 0-88415-315-0.
  2. ^ a b Staff (March 2001). "Petrochemical Processes 2001". Hydrocarbon Processing: 71–246. ISSN 0887-0284.
  3. ^ Hassan E. Alfadala, G.V. Rex Reklaitis and Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi (Editors) (2009). Proceedings of the 1st Annual Gas Processing Symposium, Volume 1: January, 2009 – Qatar (1st ed.). Elsevier Science. pp. 402–414. ISBN 0-444-53292-7.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Steam Cracking: Ethylene Production (PDF page 3 of 12 pages)
  5. ^ SBS Polymer Supply Outlook
  6. ^ Jean-Pierre Favennec (Editor) (2001). Petroleum Refining: Refinery Operation and Management. Editions Technip. ISBN 2-7108-0801-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Timeline – Petrochemicals Europe". Retrieved 2018-04-07.

External links

Media related to Petrochemicals at Wikimedia Commons

Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology

Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology (BIPT; simplified Chinese: 北京石油化工学院; traditional Chinese: 北京石油化工學院; pinyin: Beijing Shiyou Huagong Xueyuan), founded in 1978, had been a specialist school connected to the petrochemical system. After a development initiative over decades, it became a multi-disciplinary university with eleven colleges and departments.


Braskem is a Brazilian petrochemical company headquartered in São Paulo. The company is the largest petrochemical company in Latin America and has become a major player in the international petrochemical market (8th largest resin producer worldwide).

China Petrochemical Corporation

China Petrochemical Corporation (Chinese: 中国石油化工集团公司) or Sinopec Group is the world's largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate, administered by SASAC for the State Council of the People's Republic of China. It is headquartered at Chaoyangmenwai in Beijing, across the road from the headquarters of fellow state-owned oil company and competitor CNOOC Group.

Sinopec Group ranked the 3rd in the Fortune Global 500 List in 2018, with revenue over 326 billion USD.It is the third largest company in the world in terms of revenue.

ISO 14224

ISO 14224 Petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas industries -- Collection and exchange of reliability and maintenance data for equipment is an international standard relating to the collection of data for the management of the maintenance of equipment, including reliability data. It covers both methodology for the collection of the data, and details of the data to be collected.

This standard has been published. On May 31, 2013, the standard entered stage 90.92 ("International Standard to be revised") in accordance with the ISO international harmonized stage codes.

Iranian oil bourse

The Iranian Oil Bourse (Persian: بورس نفت ایران‎), International Oil Bourse, Iran Petroleum Exchange Kish Exchange or Oil Bourse in Kish (IOB; the official English language name is unclear) also known as Iran Crude Oil Exchange, is a commodity exchange, which opened its first phase on 17 February 2008.It was created by cooperation between Iranian ministries, the Iran Mercantile Exchange and other state and private institutions in 2005. The history of Iran Mercantile Exchange and its links with the "international trading floor of crude oil and petrochemical products in the Kish Island" (IOB) have been published.The IOB is intended as an oil bourse for petroleum, petrochemicals and gas in various currencies other than the United States dollar, primarily the euro and Iranian rial and a basket of other major (non-US) currencies. The geographical location is at the Persian Gulf island of Kish which is designated by Iran as a free trade zone.During 2007, Iran asked its petroleum customers to pay in non US dollar currencies. By December 8, 2007, Iran reported to have converted all of its oil export payments to non-dollar currencies.

The Kish Bourse was officially opened in a videoconference ceremony on 17 February 2008, despite last minute disruptions to the internet services to the Persian Gulf regions. Currently the Kish Bourse is only trading in oil-derived products, generally those used as feedstock for the plastics and pharmaceutical industries. However, officially published statements by Iranian oil minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari indicate that the second phase, to establish trading in crude oil directly, which has been suggested might one day perhaps create a "Caspian Crude" benchmark price analogous to Brent Crude or WTI will only be started after the Bourse has demonstrated a reasonable period of trouble-free running.

Malaysia Federal Route 90

Federal Route 90, or Jalan Desaru and Jalan Teluk Ramunia, is a federal road in Johor, Malaysia. It connects Pengerang Highway, route 92 to Desaru. 4.9km of this route is for Jalan Desaru

Medal "For the Tapping of the Subsoil and Expansion of the Petrochemical Complex of Western Siberia"

The Medal "For the Tapping of the Subsoil and Expansion of the Petrochemical Complex of Western Siberia" (Russian: Медаль «За освоение недр и развитие нефтегазового комплекса Западной Сибири») was a civilian award of the Soviet Union established on July 28, 1978 by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to recognise three years of dedicated work in developing the Petrochemical Complex of Western Siberia.

National Petrochemical Company

The National Petrochemical Company (NPC) (Persian: شرکت ملی صنایع پتروشیمی‎), a subsidiary to the Iranian Petroleum Ministry, is owned by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is responsible for the development and operation of the country's petrochemical sector. Founded in 1964, NPC began its activities by operating a small fertilizer plant in Shiraz. Today, NPC is the second largest producer and exporter of petrochemicals in the Middle East. Over these years, it has not only expanded the range and volume of its products, but it has also taken steps in areas such as R&D to achieve more self-sufficiency.

Two special economic zones on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf have been developed to be home to the NPC’s new project. These two zones enjoy a good access to feedstock, infrastructural facilities, local and international markets and skilled manpower. Despite pressure being exerted on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, Tehran expects to see a surge in petrochemical exports from $5.5 billion in 2007 to a total of nearly $9 billion in 2008. The Fourth Five-Year Plan (2005–10) calls for a fourfold expansion of petrochemical output, to 56 million tons per year.

Petrochemical Staff Housing

Petrochemical Staff Housing (Persian: منازل كاركنان پتروشيمي‎ – Menāzl-e Kārkenān-e Petrūshīmī) is a village and company town in Rudbal Rural District, in the Central District of Marvdasht County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 41, in 12 families.

Petrochemical Works, Shazand

Petrochemical Works (Persian: پتروشيمي‎ – Petrūshīmī) is a village and company town in Pol-e Doab Rural District, Zalian District, Shazand County, Markazi Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 42, in 12 families.Arak Petrochemical Co.

Petrochemical industry

The petrochemical industry is concerned with the production and trade of petrochemicals. It directly interfaces with the petroleum industry, especially the downstream sector. A major part is constituted by the plastics (polymer) industry.

Petrochemical industry in Romania

Romania was the largest European producer of oil in World War II. The oil extracted from Romania was essential for Axis military operations. The petrochemical industry near Ploieşti was bombed heavily by American bombers (see Operation Tidal Wave). After the war, a heavy reconstruction and expansion was done under the communist regime. Since then, most of the industry has been privatized.

Possessing substantial oil refining capacities, Romania is particularly interested in the Central Asia-Europe pipelines and seeks to strengthen its relations with some Arab States of the Persian Gulf. With 10 refineries and an overall refining capacity of approximately 504,000 bbl/d (80,100 m3/d), Romania has the largest refining industry in the region. Romania's refining capacity far exceeds domestic demand for refined petroleum products, allowing the country to export a wide range of oil products and petrochemicals — such as lubricants, bitumen, and fertilizers — throughout the region.

SPIC (Indian company)

Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation Ltd, or SPIC, (BSE: 590030, NSE: SPIC) is an Indian company that makes petrochemicals. Its core competency is in fertiliser products. It has operations in power, oil and natural gas, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology applications in agriculture.

The company, headquartered in Chennai, was incorporated on 18 December 1969 and became a joint venture between the M. A. Chidambaram Group and TIDCO (a part of the Government of Tamil Nadu) in 1975. The government sold its stake in 1992. The company's biggest client has been the government of Tamil Nadu, which purchases agro-products for subsidised distribution through its Public Distribution System. The company has been in poor financial health since about 2002. Its 2006 sales amounted to ₹ 2,200 crore, with a net operating loss of ₹ 180 crore.

SPIC has four business lines:

the fertiliser division,

the pharmaceuticals division which manufactures Penicillin-G Potassium (fermentation-based), and active pharmaceutical ingredients,

the engineering/construction services division offers specialised and turnkey project-based solutions mainly in fertilisers,

the agri-business division, which offers products for agricultural development like hybrid seeds and bio-fertilisers.The company has a strategic stake/or has promoted companies like Thoothukudi Alkali Chemicals, a soda ash manufacturer, Tamil Nadu Petro-products a company which produces liner alkali benzene, Manali Petrochemicals, Indo-Jordan Chemicals and a host of other companies.

As per regulatory filings, the promoters (including TN government's investment arm which has 8.2% stake) hold 39.2%, institutions hold 16.2%, public shareholding is 29% and custodians of GDRs hold the balance. First, SPIC knocked on the BIFR doors, and then entered the CDR Cell for restructuring loans. The problem for SPIC started in the late 1990s when the company had planned a foray into petrochemicals through SPIC Petrochemicals, which ran into a rough weather. It was contrived then to make purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyester filament yarn (PFY) facility at Manali in Chennai.


China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (中国石油化工股份有限公司), or Sinopec (simplified Chinese: 中国石化; traditional Chinese: 中國石化; pinyin: Zhōngguó Shíhuà), is a Chinese oil and gas enterprise based in Beijing, China. It is listed in Hong Kong and also trades in Shanghai and New York.

Sinopec Limited's parent, Sinopec Group, is the world's largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate, headquartered in Chaoyang District, Beijing. Sinopec's business includes oil and gas exploration, refining, and marketing; production and sales of petrochemicals, chemical fibers, chemical fertilizers, and other chemical products; storage and pipeline transportation of crude oil and natural gas; import, export and import/export agency business of crude oil, natural gas, refined oil products, petrochemicals, and other chemicals.

Sumitomo Chemical

Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. (住友化学株式会社, Sumitomo Kagaku Kabushiki-gaisha) is a major Japanese chemical company. The company is listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the on the Nikkei 225 stock index. It's a member of the Sumitomo group and was founded in 1913 as a fertilizer manufacturing plant.

Tabriz Petrochemical CCN Team

Tabriz Petrochemical CCN Team (Persian:تیم دوچرخه‌سواری پتروشیمی تبریز) UCI team code: TPT was an Iranian UCI Continental cycling team managed by Ramin Dadgar and Azim Abdolnezhad and main sponsored by Tabriz Petrochemical Company. The Tabriz Petrochemical Team has achieved first place in both the riders' and teams' overall classifications in the UCI Asia Tour in 2007–2008, 2008–2009 and 2009–2010


Türkiye Petrol Rafinerileri A.Ş. is a Company in Turkey, operating four refineries with a total capacity to handle an annual 28.1 mn tons of crude.

UCI Continental Circuits

The UCI Continental Circuits are continental circuits for a series of road bicycle racing competitions since 2005. The five circuits (each representing Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania continents) are a tier below the UCI World Tour. Both the World Tour and the Continental Circuits comprise a series of races in which various cycling teams compete regularly. It was introduced by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to provide an adequate and realistic context in order to encourage the expansion of cycling, everywhere in the world.

Union Carbide

Union Carbide Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary (since 2001) of Dow Chemical Company. It currently employs more than 2,400 people. Union Carbide produces chemicals and polymers that undergo one or more further conversions by customers before reaching consumers. Some are high-volume commodities and others are specialty products meeting the needs of smaller markets. Markets served include paints and coatings, packaging, wire and cable, household products, personal care, pharmaceuticals, automotive, textiles, agriculture, and oil and gas. The company is a former component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Union Carbide was 50.9% stakeholder in Union Carbide India Limited, the company responsible for the Bhopal disaster.Founded in 1917 as the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation, from a merger with National Carbon Company, the company's researchers developed an economical way to make ethylene from natural gas liquids, such as ethane and propane, giving birth to the modern petrochemical industry. Before divesting them, the chemical giant owned consumer products Eveready and Energizer batteries, Glad bags and wraps, Simoniz car wax, and Prestone antifreeze. The company divested other businesses before being acquired by Dow Chemical on February 6, 2001, including electronic chemicals, polyurethane intermediates, industrial gases and carbon products.

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