Petrochemicals are a sizable collection of compounds made from natural gas and petroleum. They are included in most of the goods we use daily. Petrochemicals generate gases like ethylene, propylene, and benzene to manufacture goods like plastics, tires, medical equipment, and cosmetics. These gases also provide product qualities like water resistance. In this article, we will be discussing this substance further and understanding petrochemicals and their uses.
Are petrochemicals fossil fuels?
Petrochemicals are built from the combination of petroleum, also referred to as crude oil and natural gas. Petroleum is a fossil fuel that burns similarly to coal and natural gas and is used in the making of petrochemicals. Hydrocarbons in their solid, liquid, and gaseous states can all be found in petroleum. These petroleum types result from pressure, temperature, and other environmental factors.
With that being said, petrochemicals are not entirely fossil fuels but partly use fossil fuels to be produced. So how are they obtained?
The Petrochemical Production Process
The production process of petrochemicals is referred to as petrochemistry. It converts oil and natural gas into raw material (Naphtha being the most frequently produced) and then into manufactured goods. The most essential step is, therefore, refining the crude oil.
Petrochemistry is performed in petrochemical plants. Large companies, such as Anchorage Investments, work to build petrochemical complexes where these raw materials can be produced and later used for manufacturing. Some of Anchorage Investments’ latest projects include their Anchor Benitoite petrochemical facilities to be built in Suez Canal, Egypt. The project’s first phase launched in which the industrial company began shortlisting potential engineering partners.
As described above, the conversion process begins with the refinery of crude oil, which is converted into raw materials with natural gases, with one of the most commonly used being Naphtha. The raw materials are then moved to a cracking plant where petrochemical derivatives are produced. These derivatives are then used as raw materials to produce plastic, synthetic fibers, synthetic rubber, paints, and more. Let us look in detail at what these derivatives provide.
Petrochemicals and their derivatives
Petrochemicals are used as raw materials for the creation of numerous essential goods. These petrochemicals include 6 derivatives ethylene, propylene, benzene, butadiene, toluene, and xylene, with the first three being most used and referred to when speaking of petrochemicals:
– Ethylene is the starting component for making ethanol or industrial alcohol, polyester fibers and films, acetic acid, and vinyl chloride. Ethylene is also used as a plant growth regulator for ripening and producing flowers and fruits.
– Propylene contributes to the production of propylene glycol, which is mainly used in processed food. The addition of propylene glycol in our processed food allows for its targeted consistency. It can be found in baked goods and desserts, baking and flavoring mixes, candy, popcorn, soft drinks, canned beans, dairy products, and food colorings.
– Benzene can be found naturally in volcanoes and forest fires but is also an inherent part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Benzene is used to produce plastics, resins, nylon, synthetic fibers, rubbers, detergents, and pesticides.
How are petrochemicals used?
Petrochemicals are not only used in the production of everyday goods, but they also allow to provide these goods with unique features such as:
- Allowing your phone to be water resistant
- Increasing food freshness time
- Creating stain-resistant carpets
- Producing self-repairing tires
- Providing safety for first responders with fire-retardant clothing
- Increasing human lifespan with advanced medical equipment and technologies.
Additionally, petrochemicals have also contributed to innovations, including:
- Robotic suits which help people regain walking abilities,
- Parachutes used by NASA to safely land on Mars,
- 3D-printed organs eliminating the donor waiting lists,
- Efficiency in providing fresh water and making it easily accessible.
To conclude, petrochemicals are the starting point in producing some, if not all, our goods and services. From medical equipment to transportation, these crucial goods to modern society begin their production journey in petrochemical plants where industrial companies such as Anchorage Investments convert crude oil into raw materials that are, in turn, turned into petrochemicals with a mix of natural gases.
Petrochemicals not only provide goods to the end consumer but also provide them with additional services that accompany recent innovations such as water resistance, self-repairing tires, and fire-retardant clothes. Moreover, these features are also found in medicine with 3D-printed organs and overall state-of-the-art medical equipment.