The Versatile Ethanol Molecule

FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE: Ethylene, with a similar molecular structure to that of ethanol, has enormous market opportunity around the world.

Knock a water molecule off ethanol and you’ll get ethylene, C2H4—the most widely produced organic chemical globally that is the basis for scores of other chemicals and hundreds (maybe thousands) of products, from antifreeze and surfactants to synthetic fibers, plastics and packaging. Global ethylene production in 2016 was greater than 150 million metric tons, with more than half going to produce polyethylene.

The biggest problem for ethanol producers is that virtually all of that ethylene currently is produced from either crude oil-based naptha or natural gas-based ethane, with shale gas promising to be the lowest-cost feedstock for years to come in the U.S.

– Susanne Retka Schill, Ethanol Producer Magazine

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