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Shell chemicals companies operate large scale manufacturing locations around the world making both refinery and chemical grade propylene. As a result, we have strong global supply capabilities, allied with a strong manufacturing technology and cost position.
What is propylene?
Propylene - also known as propene - is one of the major building blocks of the petrochemical industry.
Propylene is typically obtained via two main routes: either as a co-product of the refinery catalytic cracking process used to make gasoline (resultant product known as refinery grade propylene) or as a co-product of the steam cracking process used to make ethylene (known as chemical grade propylene). There are also a number of technologies for making propylene directly from other feedstocks. The most common of these on-purpose process routes are propane dehydrogenation and metathesis.
How is propylene used?
The materials that are derived from propylene include: polypropylene; acrylonitrile (which is converted to acrylic fibres and coatings); propylene oxide (which then goes into polyurethane resins and other chemicals); oxo alcohols (which are used in PVC plasticisers and coatings); cumene (which is ultimately used to make epoxy resins and polycarbonate); and isopropyl alcohol (which is used as a solvent).
As a result, propylene is a key component of countless end use products. Examples include automobile headlights, taillights, disk brake pads and bumpers; carpets; CDs and optical disks; clear film food wrap; eyeglasses; flexible foams used in bedding and furniture; rigid foam insulation; impact-resistant and bullet-proof windows; moulded plastic goods such as buckets, food containers, kitchen utensils and wastebaskets; nitrile rubber hoses, seals and gaskets; paints and protective coatings; grocery bags; synthetic fibres for blankets, sweaters, socks and fleeces; water cooler bottles; and wood products such as plywood, oriented strand board and laminates.
What are our key strengths in the ethylene glycols sector?
- Strong manufacturing technology and cost position.
- Multiple, large scale manufacturing locations.
- Strong logistics systems, particularly in Northern Europe and the US Gulf Coast.
- On-going commitment to sell propylene in the merchant market.
- Long term involvement – more than 75 years - in the propylene sector and an on-going commitment to it.
More than 60% of the world's production of propylene is used to make polypropylene. Since its invention in 1954, polypropylene has grown into one of the most widely- used and versatile products of the petrochemical industry.