Petrochemicals are a set of very specific chemical compounds derived from oil, natural gas, coal, plants, or other sources. They serve as building blocks to make a wide variety of products.
Oil and natural gas are used as feedstocks (the main raw material used in the manufacture of a product) to make approximately 99% of U.S. petrochemicals. Petrochemicals may be produced using extreme temperatures (over 1400 ⁰F) and pressures (over 2000 psi) in a process called cracking. The cracking process requires large amounts of energy and sophisticated engineering.
Basic petrochemicals include: ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene.
From this base set of petrochemicals come a very large number of other chemicals, which are called "petrochemical derivatives" or simply, "derivatives." These are the products of the petrochemical industry, which are used as raw materials for other chemical products used in 95% of all manufactured goods.
Products made from petrochemicals include: plastics, soaps, detergents, solvents, paints, drugs, fertilizer, pesticides, synthetic fibers and rubbers, and flooring and insulating materials. Petrochemicals are used to make such common products as aspirin, cars, clothing, electronic equipment, furniture, and much more.
Petrochemical manufacturers are driving innovations in healthcare like casts that help broken bones heal up to 80% faster and ultra-lightweight materials that allow patients with spinal-cord injuries to walk again.