Ethene (ethylene) is the most important organic chemical, by tonnage, that is manufactured. It is the building block for a vast range of chemicals from plastics to antifreeze solutions and solvents.
Uses of ethene (ethylene)
The principal uses of ethene are to produce:
b) other chemicals
Poly(ethene) accounts for about half of the world demand for ethene. However, there are considerable variations. For example, in Europe the polymer accounts for 59% of ethene consumed (LDPE 22%, LLDPE 14%, HDPE 23%).
Annual production of ethene (ethylene)
Manufacture of ethene (ethylene)
Ethene is produced from the cracking of fractions obtained from distillation of natural gas and oil.
Within Europe, the ethene that is not needed at the site at which it is produced is fed into pipelines which connect other chemical plants and refineries (Figure 2).
A new wave of crackers is being built in the Middle East to take advantage of a large supply of ethane. Indeed, the cracking of ethane will soon account for 30% of the production of ethene.
New plants based on bioethanol produced from sugar cane are in operation and are also being constructed in Brazil.
High yields are obtained by dehydrating ethanol vapour using a catalyst containing a mixture of magnesium oxide, alumina and silica at 600-750 K:
The ethene is used principally to produce poly(ethene), which can thus be classified as 'green'.
Date last amended: 2nd January 2014