Petrochemicals; is a term widely used across the preceding centuries to represent the solid foundation upon which many vital industries emerged. Introducing the petrochemicals industry and the petrochemical products, almost all our daily-used end merchandises are petrochemical-based. That’s why the world’s mega manufacturing countries primarily count on that lucrative industry to build robust economies and boost export volumes.
What are petrochemicals?
Petrochemicals are the building blocks of almost every product we use daily. Petrochemicals are defined as a wide range of specialized chemicals in the oil and gas world, technically known as hydrocarbons. Enduring massive temperatures and under super high pressure, petrochemicals are derived from liquefied natural gas (LNG), crude oil and biomass in oil refineries and natural gas processing units.
How are petrochemicals used today?
Through natural gas fractioning, ethane, propane, and butane are primarily extracted, now ready to undergo another operation called cracking. In an Ethane cracker, intermediate materials, like ethylene, propylene and butylene are produced – in addition to further olefins – as raw materials to key industries.
In oil refineries, crude oil undergoes a refining process, generating naphtha, gasoline, kerosene, light and heavy oils. With such products entering the cracking phase in naphtha crackers, ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene are manufactured in addition to other aromatic hydrocarbons, like BTX (three xylene isomers).
Leveraging biomass as a feedstock, rice/wheat straw, sugar cane, sugar beet molasses, and a myriad of agricultural produce and residues can be used as a non-fuel and organic feedstock for the petrochemicals industry.
What are petrochemicals used for?
Petrochemicals can be used to prepare versatile of end products. The list below encompasses a limited number of industries and final products that significantly feed on petrochemicals. To name some:
|PVC pipes.||Synthetic fibers.|
|Chemicals.||Insulation & building materials.|
|Paints & coatings.||Diesel.|
|Automotive spare parts.||Molding.|
|Tires.||Electronics & apparatus.|
The global demand for petrochemicals is unceasingly growing by the day. Although such a fruitful industry is known for having a lot to offer, the world hasn’t reached its optimum utilization yet. Industry leaders should pay further understanding and more attention to make the most of its returns. (Its here refers to the petrochemicals industry)*
In this regard, Dr. Fatih Birol – Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), stated: “Our economies are heavily dependent on petrochemicals, but the sector receives far less attention than it deserves. Petrochemicals are one of the key blind spots in the global energy debate, especially given the influence they will exert on future energy trends.”
Petrochemicals Industry in Egypt
In the 1940’s, the petrochemicals industry in Egypt has first emerged with the inauguration of Al-Ahleya Plastic Company. Years went by, and the oil & gas operations significantly thrived, witnessing a comprehensive restructuring of the whole petroleum sector. From that day forward, the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has long cemented its strategic growth on 5 key entities; to meticulously govern, ideally assess and flawlessly achieve forthcoming accomplishments. Those 5 sturdy pillars are; The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), The Egyptian Mineral Resources General Authority (EMRA), South Valley Egyptian Petroleum Holding Company (GANOPE), The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS), and The Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM).
In 2002, The Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM) was established to execute the 20-year petrochemical master plan, realizing the optimum utilization of natural gas in value-added products. Eyeing future expansion, ECHEM has ingeniously laid its concrete foundation to manage and develop the petrochemicals industry, transforming Egypt into a regional hub for the petrochemicals industry.
Thanks to The National Petrochemicals Master Plan, The Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company is now catering and will expand with its portfolio of petrochemical products, feeding a vast array of end-user merchandise. ECHEM’s current and projected petrochemical products encompass; soda ash, metallic silicon and its derivatives, linear alkyl benzene (LAB), heavy alkyl benzene (HAB), styrene and polystyrene, purified terephthalic acid, titanium dioxide, biodegradable bioplastics (PLA), green naphtha, super absorbent polymers, medium-density fiberboard and wood panels (MDF), bioethanol, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), caustic soda, ammonia and urea fertilizers, melamine, propylene and polypropylene (PP), ethylene, polyethylene (PE), polybutadiene, methanol, urea formaldehyde resins (UF), sulfonated naphthalene formaldehyde (SNF), benzene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), paraxylene, mono ethylene glycol (MEG), diethylene glycol (DEG), sulphuric acid, vinasse powder, low density polyethylene (LDPE), ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), ethylene dichloride (EDC), sodium hydroxide (NaOH), sodium hydrochlorite (NaOCl), hydrochloric acid (HCI), acetic acid, polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), vinyl acetate monomer (VAM), polyether polyols, polyvinyl acetate (PVA), propylene glycol (PG), sodium bicarbonate, high density polyethylene (HDPE), and polyacetals.
Are Petrochemicals Harmful?
Like any other industry, the oil and gas production process releases wastewater and greenhouse gases from plants’ drainage and chimneys during the manufacturing. Starting mid 1990’s, scientists and environmentalists strived hard to competently contain the petrochemicals’ carbon footprint and sewage discharges by inventing monitoring systems to assess the amount of air and water pollutants leaked to the surrounding environment. Nowadays, Continuous Emission Monitoring (CEM) systems, along with wastewater treatment units, are enforced to many industries across the globe to ensure the safe disposal of such hazardous components.
Wrapping up, the 21st century’s petrochemicals industry and petrochemical products are becoming more sustainable and greener than ever before. Policymakers coined stringent environmental regulations and endless ecological monitoring procedures worldwide to capitalize on such lucrative business. Scientists and industry developers even started to opt for agricultural residues, like biomass, as feedstock to optimize the use of our non-renewable energy resources. To conclude, the petrochemicals industry is relentlessly blooming, pledging more products to offer to subsidize further dynamic industries.