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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.