Ethylene is a colorless flammable gas exudes a sweet and musky scent in its purest form. In most industrial circumstances, ethylene or ethene, is a by-product of ethane undergoing steam cracking. It is also the most industrialized organic compound worldwide in terms of production quantity. Ethylene’s production is most commonly used for the purpose of creating polyethylene, a readily used plastic. It is also used in the agricultural sector as ethylene is a natural plant hormone, important for the ripening process of fruit.

Production capacities and demand for ethylene have shown year over year growth in tonnage produced since 2005. Much of that production has been provided in either the Middle East, which hold vast quantities of natural gas reserves, or China. The primary production method used is steam cracking of hydrocarbons, with compression and distillation used to separate the resulting materials. Though a highly valued industrial compound attempts to synthesize ethylene have not proved fruitful as the market is rather open and its production methods are quite manageable.

Uses

  • Polymerization
    • Polyethylene production encompasses more than half of the world’s production of ethylene. It is also the world’s most widely used plastic.
  • Oxidation
    • Once oxidized, ethylene produces ethylene oxide. One of the key materials in production of surfactants and detergents
    • It is also used to produce ethylene glycol once hydrolyzed. This substance is used as molecular weight glycols, glycol ethers, or polyethylene terephthalate.
    • It can also  be used as an automotive antifreeze
  • Alkylation
    • Once alkalized, ethylene yields ethylbenzene, a precursor to styrene. This is a principal chemical used in packaging and installation, as well as rubber production for tires and footwear.
  • Oxo Reaction
    • Hydroformylation of ethylene produces propionaldehyde, a precursor to propionic acid and n-propyl alcohol.
  • Hydration
    • Hydration of catalyzed ethylene yields ethanol.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Ethylene can be used as an anesthetic, as a fruit ripening agent, or as welding gas.
    • It was also used in the production of the chemical weapon, sulfur-based mustard gas