Environmental Aspects of Petrochemical Industry - WorldOfChemicals

Petrochemical Industry - Products and Environmental Aspects


The petrochemical industry is an integral part of the chemical industry. The petrochemical industry produces a wide range of intermediate products, obtained from fossil fuels. These are subsequently used to manufacture everyday products.



Petrochemicals are used in various everyday products such as drugs, food packaging, plastics, textile fibers, detergents and adhesives to name a few.

Petrochemicals are important for the following industries:

 1. Automotive industry: Tires and interior components.

 2. Construction industry: Insulation materials.

 3. Electronic Appliances: Computer, television and radio components.

 4. Health care Industry: Hospital equipment and precision instruments.


Petrochemical Feedstock

Fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are used mainly for transportation and heating purposes. The petrochemicals industry accounts for 10% of these fossil fuels. Some of the chemicals obtained from processing of fossil fuels are acetylene, benzene, ethane, ethylene, hydrogen, methane and propane. Various other chemical products are obtained from these petrochemicals.


Petrochemical Processes

Intermediates are obtained through the following processes:

 1. Steam cracking: Using high temperatures and steam, Naphtha molecules are broken down into smaller chains under high temperature and pressure to produce lighter hydrocarbons called olefins. Some olefins are ethylene, butane, butadiene and propylene.

 2. Catalytic reforming: Naphtha is converted into aromatics like benzene, toluene and xylene. This is carried out at high temperatures in distillation towers. Eventually, aromatics and olefins are used to produce finished products, through other chemical reactions.


Environmental Aspect

The petrochemical industry is reducing its environmental footprint and enhancing its environmental performance by adhering to environmental standards like ISO 14001 and REACH. The petrochemicals industry has taken measures such as water treatment, waste incineration and safety systems to mitigate its impact on the environment. 


Types of Plastic

Olefins like ethylene and propylene can be converted to long chains of atoms strung together in numerous ways. These polymers are the building blocks of plastic products. They are present in the form of liquid, paste, pellets and powder. These polymers are processed further to produce different types of plastic products. These are as follows:

1. Polyethylene: It is used for making grocery bags, packaging materials, containers, toys and other products. 

2. Polypropylene: It is used for making dashboards, vehicle bumpers and other objects due to its high rigidity and shock resistance. 

3. Polystyrene: It is used in the production of household appliances, televisions and CD cases.


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