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What is benzene?

Benzene is a cyclical, six carbon, six hydrogen molecule. It is a clear, colourless, volatile liquid with a characteristic ‘aromatic’ smell. Benzene is extracted from two primary sources: from pyrolysis gasoline (pygas) which is a co-product of ethylene manufacture, or from reformate, a stream resulting from the catalytic reforming process used to produce high octane gasoline. Benzene can also be derived from toluene via two on-purpose routes: hydrodealkylation and disproportionation. 

How is benzene used?

Benzene is an important basic chemical, produced in large quantities and traded internationally. It is widely used in the industrial sector, where it is combined and processed with other basic chemicals (such as ethylene or propylene) to produce countless consumer goods. 

The largest derivative outlet for benzene is ethylbenzene, an intermediate used in the production of styrene, which is further converted into materials such as polystyrene. It is also widely used to produce cumene, which in turn leads to phenol, a component in phenolic resins and adhesives; cyclohexane, a precursor of caprolactam and adipic acid, both used in nylon; and aniline, a material needed to produce methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) which is used in urethanes and other speciality applications. 

The end result is a variety of products that we all use everyday: clothing, packaging, paints, adhesives, unbreakable windows, plywood, computer casings, compact discs, dyes, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and many more.

What are our key strengths in the benzene sector?

  • Global manufacturing and supply capabilities.
  • Large, efficient producers of benzene.
  • Benzene production integrated both upstream and downstream.
  • On-going, concerted programme to minimise the risks associated with benzene transport.
  • Active commitment to working to understand the health and environmental effects of aromatic chemicals.

Shell chemicals resources