AskDefine | Define petrochemical

Dictionary Definition

petrochemical n : any compound obtained from petroleum or natural gas

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any compound derived from petroleum or natural gas


  1. Of or pertaining to the such compounds, or the industry that produces them


Related terms

Extensive Definition

Petrochemicals are chemical products made from raw materials of petroleum or other hydrocarbon origin. (Etymologically, the name is incorrect, as the Greek root petro- means "rock"; theoretically the correct term is oleochemicals, from the Greek root oleo-, meaning "oil".) Although some of the chemical compounds that originates from petroleum may also be derived from other sources such as coal or natural gas, petroleum is a major source of many. This article is mainly intended to discuss organic compounds or materials that are not burned as fuel (see also Petroleum product).
The two main classes of petrochemical raw materials are olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene and xylene isomers), both of which are produced in very large quantities. At oil refineries, olefins are produced mainly from hydrocarbons by processes such as fluid catalytic cracking and steam cracking. At oil refineries, aromatic hydrocarbons are mainly produced by catalytic reforming or similar processes. From these basic building blocks is made a very wide range of chemicals and other materials used in industry - monomers, solvents, detergents, and adhesives. From the monomers, polymers or oligomers are produced for plastics, resins, fibers, elastomers, certain lubricants, and gels.
World production of ethylene is around 110 million tonnes per annum, of propylene 65 million tonnes, and of aromatic raw materials 70 million tonnes. The largest petrochemical industries are to be found in the USA and Western Europe, though the major growth in new production capacity is in the Middle East and Asia. There is a substantial inter-regional trade in petrochemicals of all kinds.
The following is a partial list of the major commercial petrochemicals and their derivatives:
petrochemical in Arabic: البتروكيمياويات
petrochemical in Danish: Petrokemisk
petrochemical in Persian: صنایع پتروشیمی
petrochemical in Indonesian: Petrokimia
petrochemical in Japanese: 石油化学工業
petrochemical in Norwegian: Petrokjemiske produkter
petrochemical in Finnish: Petrokemikaali
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