Petrochemicals are industrial products based on natural gas and suitable fractions of crude oil. They undergo several transformations before they can be applied in end products. They are used in health, hygiene, housing and nutrition, to name but a few of the thousands of applications.
Emergence of the petrochemical industry
Petrochemicals is a relatively young industry; it developed in the 1940s, more than 80 years after the drilling of the first commercial oil well.
A major impulse for the development of petrochemistry was the demand for synthetic materials to replace expensive and sometimes less efficient natural products. Until then, it was a rather experimental sector that started with basic materials:
- synthetic rubber in the 1900s;
- Bakelite, the first plastic derived from petrochemistry in 1907;
- the first petrochemical solvents in the 1920s;
- and polystyrene in the 1930s.
Performance and versatility
As an important part of the chemical industry, the petrochemical industry uses the refined raw materials to produce the starting and intermediate products for the manufacture of plastics, elastomers, fibres, detergents, dyes, textile auxiliaries and much more. The processes for the production of fuels, heating and lubricating oils are part of the mineral oil industry and are usually not included in the petrochemical industry.
The most important petrochemical process is the so-called steam cracking, in which hydrocarbons are cracked in the presence of steam and at high temperatures. Refineries deliver ethane, naphtha, hydro wax, gas oil and liquefied gas. Petrochemical plants convert these into ethylene, propylene, C4 cut, isoprene and aromatics. The so-called steam reforming of refinery gases is also used to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are needed for the production of ammonia, acetic acid, methanol and for hydrogenation processes.
Engineering and construction management
Our involvement in the petrochemical industry is characterized by plant engineering. Here, Dosign engineers support both modernisation and brownfield projects as well as plant expansion.
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