Propylene in Demand: Roadblocks and Opportunities

Originally published 05 February 2015 on IHS Engineering360.

The petrochemical industry is made up of seven building blocks: synthesis gas, the three olefins— ethylene, propylene and C4 olefins—and the three aromatics— benzene, toluene and the xylenes. Among the olefins is propylene, one of the most significant chemical building blocks produced industrially for polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile, propylene oxide derivatives and other uses.

Two-thirds of the world’s propylene goes to PP production. Demand for PP has been high for the past decade due to its versatility and reasonable price. Since its invention in 1954, PP has evolved into one of the most widely used products of the olefins industry. It is used in day-to-day products such as plastic parts, carpeting, paper and material found in loudspeakers and similar electronics. PP is also used in thermoplastic fiber, reinforced composites and laboratory equipment.

At present, global propylene demand is roughly 90 million metric tons (MMT) and is estimated to rise to 130 MMT by 2023, approximately 30% of which will be on-purpose production based according to IHS Chemical.

Propylene is largely produced in traditional processes such as steam cracking and fluid-catalytic-cracking (FCC) units. In the U.S., refinery-based production makes up a large portion of the supply given the many FCC units located in the country, says Chuck Carr, Global Olefins director at IHS Chemical.

IHS Engineering360, February 2015.


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