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What is butadiene?

Butadiene, also known as 1,3-butadiene, is a colourless gas that condenses to a liquid at minus 4.5 degrees centigrade. Butadiene is derived, using an extractive distillation process, from the crude C4 stream, one of the cracker by-products of ethylene and propylene production. 

How is butadiene used?

The largest single use for butadiene is in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) which, in turn, is principally used in the manufacture of automobile tyres. SBR is also used in adhesives, sealants, coatings and in rubber articles like shoe soles. Polybutadiene is also used in tyres and can be used as an intermediate in the production of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS). ABS is widely used in items such as telephones, computer casings and other appliances. 

Other polymers made from butadiene include styrene-butadiene latex, used for example in carpet backings and adhesives; nitrile rubber, used in hoses, fuel lines, gasket seals, gloves and footwear; and styrene-butadiene block copolymers which are used in many end-uses ranging from asphalt modifiers (road and roofing construction applications), to adhesives, footwear and toys. 

Chemical intermediates made from butadiene include adiponitrile and chloroprene which are used, respectively, in the manufacture of nylon and neoprene. 

What are our key strengths in the butadiene sector?

  • Shell chemicals companies are one of the largest global butadiene producers and one of the few producers with production facilities in multiple regions.     
  • Shell chemicals companies are recognised as leading suppliers of product stewardship support. This includes advice on best practices in handling butadiene. 
Butadiene product literature
Brochures and manuals
Butadiene Product Stewardship Manual

Lack of access to the natural rubber plantations of South East Asia during World War II fuelled the development of the synthetic rubber industry in the United States. By 1950, the use of synthetic rubber had overtaken the use of natural rubber in manufacturing.

Shell chemicals resources