Product overview

about propylene oxide

Propylene oxide (PO) is a colourless, reactive liquid used primarily as a building block for the manufacture of a versatile range of derivative products. PO can be produced using a number of technologies including the Shell proprietary 'SM/PO' process.

PO derivatives and their applications include:

  • polyether polyols (poly-alcohols) for use in urethane applications such as rigid foam, flexible foam, and Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants & Elastomer (CASE) systems
  • polyether polyols for use in non-urethane applications such as surfactants and oil demulsifiers
  • propylene glycol for aeroplane de-icers, fibreglass-reinforced unsaturated polyester resins, and hydraulic fluids
  • propylene oxide glycol ethers and propylene carbonate solvents
  • butanediol for engineering plastics and fibres
  • polyalkylene glycol fuel additives and lubricants
  • modified starches and allyl alcohols

Our key strengths in propylene oxide

  • Integrated global manufacturing and supply network
  • Strong position in propylene oxide technology
  • Long-term commitment, having entered the market in 1957

History in PO and derivatives

Substantial capacity growth has been fuelled by continual developments in our proprietary SM/PO technology and world-scale, integrated manufacturing assets strategically placed to meet customer needs.

This same commitment drove the establishment of our polyurethanes research and technology centre in Bangalore, India, providing our customers with practical advice and support on the issues that matter to their industries.

Year Event
1957 First propylene oxide plant acquired in Carrington, UK
1959 First polyether polyols produced in Carrington
1964 New polyol plant starts up in Pernis, The Netherlands
1970 New TDI/MDI joint venture plant starts up in Antwerp, Belgium (halted production in 2003)
1971 Major polyol plant expansion at Pernis, The Netherlands
1980 First SM/PO plant starts commercial production in Moerdijk, The Netherlands
1988 New "product" laboratory opened in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
1990 Polyols and SM/PO de-bottlenecking in The Netherlands
1997 Shell Seraya Research Laboratory opens in Singapore
1997 SM/PO, polyols, MPG plants start up in Singapore
1998 New rigid polyols facility starts up at Pernis, The Netherlands
1999 New SM/PO plant starts up in Moerdijk, The Netherlands
1999 New polymer polyol capacity becomes available
1999 Shell/Huntsman strategic alliance on rigid foam urethanes
2002 New SM/PO, polyols plant starts up in Singapore
2003 New styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) polymer polyol plant in The Netherlands
2006 SM/PO and derivatives plants come on-stream at CSPCL Nanhai in China
2007 Closure of polyether polyols plant at Carrington UK
2008 Opening of new R&D centre in Bangalore, India. Expansion of polyols plant at Pernis, The Netherlands  
2009 Shell Chemicals celebrates 50 years of polyols
2011 Modifications at Pernis increases capacity of CASE polyols

More in Chemicals product portfolio

Propylene glycols

Propylene gycols are widely used in the production of unsaturated polyester resins which, in turn, are used to make a host of everyday items from boats to bath tubs.

Ethylene glycols

Ethylene glycols are key intermediates in the production of polyester fibres, packaging and resins and are also used in everything from antifreeze and plasticisers to glues and film.