Ethylene (C2H4), a light gas with a characteristic sweet smell belongs to the olefins family of petrochemicals or aliphatics, which are straight chain hydrocarbons, derived from petroleum or natural gas. Other major products belonging to this family are propylene and butadiene. Ethylene is one of the largest volume commodity chemicals consumed mostly as a raw material in the manufacture of plastics, fibers and other organic chemicals. Ethylene constitutes the fundamental building unit of worldwide petrochemical industry with ubiquitous applications in a spectrum of end use areas. The primary derivatives of this upstream petrochemical include polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS) and a broad range of other products.
As per Global Industry Analysts, global capacity of ethylene is projected to be approximately 142 mln tons by 2010. Middle East and Asia are all set to emerge as the world's largest ethylene producing regions. Key to increasing capacities is the availability of low cost raw materials.
Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America represent major consumers of ethylene, accounting for a share of over 87% of the global ethylene market, as stated by the recent report published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Polyethylene represents the largest end-use market for ethylene. Global consumption of ethylene in the production of polyethylene is estimated at 65.8 mln tons. Consumption of ethylene in the United States is expected to be around 26.8 mln tons by 2010. Ethylene consumption in Asia-Pacific is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 6.1% over the period 2001-2010. Germany represents the single largest European market for ethylene, accounting for a share of close to 19%.
Leading global and regional players operating in the market include Arkema SA, BASF SE, Borealis A/S, Chevron Corporation, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, Eastman Chemical Company, Equistar Chemicals LP, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Formosa Plastics Corp, Honam Petrochemical Corporation, Idemitsu Kosan Co., Innovene, Jilin Chemical Industry Company, LyondellBasell Industries, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Mitsui Chemicals, Nova Chemicals Corp, PEMEX Mexicanos, Royal Dutch Shell plc, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Sinopec Beijing Yanhua Petrochemical Co Ltd, SK Energy, The Dow Chemical Company.