The petrochemical industry can be traced back to the oil works of James Young in Scotland and Abraham Pineo Gesner in Canada. The first plastic was invented by Alexander Parkes, an English metallurgist. In 1856, he patented Parkesine, a celluloid based on nitrocellulose treated with a variety of solvents. This material, exhibited at the 1862 London International Exhibition, anticipated many of the modern aesthetic and utility uses of plastics. The industrial production of soap from vegetable oils was started by William Lever and his brother James in 1885 in Lancashire based on a modern chemical process invented by William Hough Watson that used glycerin and vegetable oils.
Polymers and plastics, especially polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene and polycarbonate comprise about 80% of the industry’s output worldwide. These materials are often converted to fluoropolymer tubing products and used by the industry to transport highly corrosive materials. Chemicals are used to make a wide variety of consumer goods, as well as inputs to agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and service industries. The chemical industry itself consumes 26 percent of its own output. Major industrial customers include rubber and plastic products, textiles, apparel, petroleum refining, pulp and paper, and primary metals.
Polymers include all categories of plastics and man-made fibers. The major markets for plastics are packaging, followed by home construction, containers, appliances, pipe, transportation, toys, and games.
The largest-volume polymer product, polyethylene (PE), is used mainly in packaging films and other markets such as milk bottles, containers, and pipe.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), another large-volume product, is principally used to make pipe for construction markets as well as siding and, to a much smaller extent, transportation and packaging materials.
Polypropylene (PP), similar in volume to PVC, is used in markets ranging from packaging, appliances, and containers to clothing and carpeting.
Polystyrene (PS), another large-volume plastic, is used principally for appliances and packaging as well as toys and recreation.
The principal raw materials for polymers are bulk petrochemicals these are primarily manufactured from liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, and crude oil. Typical large-volume products include ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, xylenes, methanol, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), styrene, butadiene, and ethylene oxide. These chemicals are the starting materials used to manufacture many polymers and other more complex organic chemicals particularly those that are made for use in the specialty chemicals category.
In September 2013 Ledwood were awarded a contract for the Piping and Mechanical Works for a new Thermoplastic Polymer Plant for a client based in the north west of the UK.
The scope included the procurement, fabrication, and erection of pipework and equipment for the new facility. There was 12,500m of pipe work which included carbon steel and exotics such as stainless steel and hastelloy.
In addition to the conventional piping specifications there were several jacketed pipe work (pipe within a pipe) specifications with materials requirement including carbon steel, stainless steel and a hastelloy/stainless steel core and jacket combination. The core/jacket diameter combinations for these systems ranged from 25/50mm to 250/300 mm in diameter.
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