You are here: Science > Materials > Petrochemicals


Umbrella fabric is usually nylon, made from petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are chemicals that are processed from petroleum and natural gas, which are fossil fuels. Primary petrochemicals—such as ethylene and benzene—are made directly from fossil fuels. They are produced in large quantities in oil refineries and chemical plants. Primary petrochemicals are often sold to other chemical plants to be processed into secondary petrochemicals. For example, a chemical reaction between hydrogen and the primary petrochemical benzene, produces the secondary petrochemical cyclohexane. Cyclohexane is used in the production of nylon

An oil refinery, where crude oil is processed into useful products and primary petrochemicals.

Petrochemical or petroleum product?

Petrochemicals, which are pure chemicals, are different from petroleum products, which are complex mixtures of different chemicals. Petroleum products include liquid fuels (such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel), gaseous fuels (such as propane), lubricants (such as motor oils and greases), asphalt (used as a road surface) and paraffin wax (used in candles and lubrication). Oil refineries can produce both petrochemicals and petroleum products. Specialized chemical plants for producing petrochemicals are often close to oil refineries.

In the past, ethylene has been used as an anaesthetic, because inhaling it results in unconsciousness. It is no longer used for that purpose because of its flammability.

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.

Find the answer