Ethylene and Propylene: Key Feedstocks for Plastics and Other Industrial Uses

Ethylene and propylene are key hydrocarbon gas feedstocks widely used in the petrochemical industry to manufacture important plastics, fibers, and other industrial products. Both gases are obtained primarily through the steam cracking of petroleum feedstocks such as naphtha, gas oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and natural gas liquids in petroleum refineries and dedicated gas cracker units.
Steam cracking, also known as thermal cracking, involves heating the hydrocarbon feedstock in the presence of steam to temperatures between 700 to 900 °C in tubular furnaces. This process causes the long-chain hydrocarbon molecules to break down into shorter fragments through pyrolysis reactions. The resulting product streams contain varying amounts of ethylene, propylene, butadiene, and other lower alkenes depending on the feedstock composition and cracking severity. Overall, steam cracking is a cost-effective process for producing large volumes of basic petrochemicals and generating fuel gases.