The petrochemicals industry is complex and includes a large array of intermediate products that have a wide variety of uses. Axens is mainly present in olefins and pyrolysis gasoline purification issued from steam crackers and in aromatics production and separation.
- Steam crackers can accept a large variety of feedstocks. The most common of these are ethane extracted from natural gas installations and naphtha, a refinery product. For all feedstocks, the objective is to produce olefins, principally ethylene, around which the plant is designed, and propylene.
The end-uses of olefins are mainly for plastics obtained from polymerization (polyethylene, polypropylene, etc.). The markets for these, e. g., packaging, and automobile parts, are growing continually at 4% per year and sometimes more depending on the final product. Butadiene is used in making synthetic rubber.
- Aromatics complexes where catalytic reforming produces a series of basic intermediate chemicals, aromatics. The output is composed of BTX, a mixture of benzene, toluene and xylenes; the “X” component can be further categorized as three isomers: paraxylene (PX), orthoxylene and metaxylene.
Of these products, PX is the product in greatest demand. PX is the first link in a manufacturing chain leading to polyethylene terephthalate (PET), whose global market growth is a strong 6% per year, owing particularly to considerable demand for plastic bottles and clothes containing synthetic polyester fibers.
Benzene is used in a variety of well-known products including polystyrene, nylon and polycarbonate (PC) resins, the latter product is used in automobile glass, DVDs and optical lenses.