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Petrochemicals, from Naphtha to Plastic

Petrochemicals are derived from petroleum — primarily naphtha and natural gas — and, increasingly, from biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... .

Petrochemical plants use steam crackers to heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... naphtha to 800°C, which breaks down (“cracks”) into lighter preservation (hydrocarbons)The final phase in petroleum system formation, after a deposit has accumulated... known as intermediates. The olefins and aromatics obtained then undergo further processing to produce a wide array of products, such as plastics or solvents (See Close-Up: "Petrochimicals, A Vital Industry").

Plastics are obtained by polymerizationProcess in which a large number of relatively small molecules known as monomers combine to form a single macromolecule called a polymer... , a chemical reaction that creates a repetitive chain of small molecules that form longer chains known as polymers. The polymers in pellet or powder form are then processed into all kinds of plastic materials. In addition to being sturdy and malleable, plastic has the added advantage of being lightweight. This makes it particularly attractive to many businesses looking to reduce their environmental impactAny change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity... (See Close-Up: "Plastic and the Environment"). (1’55” animated video)