Imagine having to paint the outside of a house continually to protect it from the weather. Thanks to chemicals such as ShellSol* industrial hydrocarbon solvents, that’s no longer necessary.

Solvents play a key role in enhancing the performance of exterior paints – dissolving the paint ingredients and making it easier to apply in order to provide a tough, durable coating that lasts for years.

And in parts of the world where homes are built from timber, Shell solvents are also used to safeguard their structural integrity. Modern, efficient methods for preserving construction timber use an environmentally-friendly process where the softwood is vacuum treated with a solvent-based solution containing fungicide and insecticide.

NEODOL alcohols

Whether working outside, taking a holiday, or just enjoying the outdoors, people are increasingly aware of the importance of protecting their skin. The performance of modern skin and sun creams owes a lot to chemicals such as Shell’s NEODOL* range of alcohols.

NEODOL alcohols are added to skin creams to increase their ability to disperse other components easily, allowing active ingredients to provide the necessary protection and delivering desirable aesthetic effects such as softening the skin.

In fact, NEODOL grades are used across a range of personal care products, including shampoos and conditioners, liquid soaps and shower gels, where they help to deliver active ingredients or enhance cleansing with a richer, thicker lather.

CARADOL polyols

The role of chemicals is just as important for keeping our homes warm and comfortable. With rising energy costs and the threat of climate change, the energy efficiency of houses has never been more important, and effective insulation has become a priority for modern building design and construction.

The walls, roofs and floors of many homes are insulated with lightweight polystyrene foam panels. Shell Chemicals are one of the largest producers of styrene monomer, the chemical behind polystyrene foam, which is also used in cups that keep your coffee warm.

The comfort of modern furniture relies on a different kind of resilient, flexible cushioning foam produced from polyurethane chemicals such as Shell’s CARADOL* range of polyols.

As standards of living rise across the world, more and more people are experiencing the comfort of a polyurethane foam mattress for the first time.

Ethylene glycol

As disposable income grows in developing economies, demand for modern hardwearing garments made from synthetic textiles such as polyester has risen steeply.

Polyester can be used to produce a range of textiles including ‘wool-like’ and ‘silk-like’ fabrics and one of its main raw materials is the chemical monoethylene glycol, or MEG.

Shell Chemicals are among the leading MEG producers and in December 2009 opened one of the world’s largest MEG plants, using the most efficient process technology, in Singapore. This is in direct response to growing demand from Asia.

While the benefits of chemicals are evident all around us, Shell continues to develop and improve the efficiency and sustainability of the process technologies behind these vital ingredients of modern life.

Did you know...

  • The energy used to produce polystyrene foam insulation for a typical house is regained after only one year through the energy saved.
  • Polyurethane chemicals are mainly used in the production of flexible foams, but also go into a wide variety of applications from footwear and running tracks to breathable clothing.
  • Solvents were found to have medicinal properties many centuries ago. A book written in the 9th century contains recipes for eye compresses describing the methods of preparation and the solvents used.