Ethene (ethylene) is the most important organic chemical, by tonnage, that is manufactured. It is the building block for a vast range of chemicals from plastics to antifreeze solutions and solvents.

By kind permission of INEOS Manufacturing Scotland.

Uses of ethene (ethylene)
The principal uses of ethene are to produce:
a) polymers

chloroethene (vinyl chloride) and hence poly(chloroethene), i.e. poly(vinylchloride), PVC
ethylbenzene and hence phenylethene and poly(phenylethene), i.e. polystyrene
b) other chemicals

epoxyethane and hence the diols, such as ethane-1,2-diol
The manufacture of polymers is the main use of ethene. Poly(ethene) accounts for about 60% of the world demand for ethene (HDPE 28%, LLDPE 18%, LDPE 14%), while dichloro-1,2-ethane, the precursor for chloroethene and thence PVC, accounts for a further 11%. Ethylbenzene, the route to poly(phenylethene), uses another 5%1.

About 16% of ethene is used worldwide to make epoxyethane (ethylene oxide).

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