Petrochemicals, also called petroleum distillates, are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane.
The two most common petrochemical classes are olefins (including ethylene and propylene) and aromatics (including benzene, toluene and xylene isomers). Oil refineries produce olefins and aromatics by fluid catalytic cracking of petroleum fractions. Chemical plants produce olefins by steam cracking of natural gas liquids like ethane and propane. Aromatics are produced by catalytic reforming of naphtha. Olefins and aromatics are the building-blocks for a wide range of materials such as solvents, detergents, and adhesives. Olefins are the basis for polymers and oligomers used in plastics, resins, fibers, elastomers, lubricants, and gels.
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So here is a list of the top 10 petrochemical companies of the world.
The German giant is one of the last major companies to play in both pharmaceuticals and chemicals. But later this year, Bayer’s MaterialScience business will go by a new name, Covestro. The business, which makes polyurethanes and polycarbonate, had $15.5 billion in sales in 2014, a figure that would make Covestro, on its own, the 23rd-largest chemical company in the world. The business hasn’t been earning the same returns as Bayer’s agrochemical and pharmaceutical units.
Ineos is one of the world’s 10-largest chemical companies despite only having been founded only in 1998. Acquisitions, such as the 2005 purchase of BP’s Innovene olefins unit, made Ineos grow up fast. And Ineos hasn’t relented from this strategy. Last year it took over BASF’s share of the firms’ Styrolution styrenics joint venture, and this year it formed a polyvinyl chloride venture with Solvay that it will ultimately take over.
To activist investor Nelson Peltz and his firm Trian Partners, DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman and her management team can’t do anything right. The 2.7% stakeholder in DuPont says the firm’s high overhead hurts profitability and that its R&D spending yields disappointing results. Most other shareholders, it turns out, took Kullman’s side. At DuPont’s annual meeting in May, they voted down the four directors Peltz nominated to the board. Nevertheless, DuPont is making major changes.
7. LyondellBasell Industries
2014 Chemical Sales: $ 34.8 billion
Bhavesh V. (Bob) Patel, LyondellBasell’s new CEO, has some big shoes to fill. His predecessor, James L. Gallogly, led the company out of bankruptcy and made it one of the most respected names in petrochemicals by the time he retired early this year. Conservatism seems to be the company’s mantra. While more than a dozen firms are building multi-billion-dollar U.S. ethylene crackers to take advantage of cheap shale gas, Lyondell is focusing on incremental expansions of existing plants as a way to boost output more quickly and cheaply.
6. Formosa Plastics
After a string of seven serious industrial accidents in 2011, Formosa Plastics made a strategic imperative of upgrading its flagship complex in Mailiao, Taiwan. The company spent $400 million to improve the facility to make it less susceptible to corrosion and easier to inspect. Meanwhile, Formosa is also exploiting shale gas riches in the U.S. At its Point Comfort, Texas, complex, the company is building an ethylene cracker, a propane dehydrogenation unit, and polyethylene and polypropylene plants.
Unlike major oil companies such as Shell and BP, ExxonMobil never made major divestitures in petrochemicals. “We see the value of the chemical businesses,” former Exxon¬Mobil Chemical president Stephen D. Pryor told C&EN shortly after retiring on Jan. 1. “The prospective value of chemicals has only grown over time, and you will see chemicals an ever-larger part of the company.” Indeed, ExxonMobil recently doubled petrochemical capacity at its refining and petrochemical complex in Singapore. It’s one amongst the world’s Top 10 Petrochemical Companies 2017.
Mohamed H. Al-Mady, who led Saudi Basic Industries Corp. since 1998, stepped down from the firm in February to accept a post in Saudi Arabia’s defense industry. Al-Mady presided over dynamic growth as SABIC used cheap Saudi ethane to fuel high profits and capital expansions. Knowing its feedstock advantage couldn’t last forever, SABIC has rolled many of those profits into international acquisitions such as its 2007 purchase of General Electric Plastics
Being the largest supplier of petrochemicals in the country that for a decade now has been the linchpin of global industrial growth has done wonders for Sinopec’s chemical revenues. China’s Sinopec is the world’s third-largest chemical company. A decade ago it was merely the ninth largest with $16.7 billion in revenues. However, Sinopec’s strong position hasn’t guaranteed high profits.
2. Dow Chemical
Andrew N. Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, spent much of the past year on the defensive. His company was beset by activist investor Daniel S. Loeb, whose hedge fund Third Point owns 1.9% of Dow. Loeb maintained that Dow’s strategy of integrating petrochemicals with downstream specialty chemicals was counterproductive and that the company, the largest U.S. chemical firm, should be earning $2.5 billion more per year.
For the ninth year in a row, BASF is the one of the largest petrochemicals companies in the world 2017. This year also happens to be the company’s 150th anniversary, so in April it threw itself a party. Attendees were treated to a musical composition, “Symphony No. 8: Water Dances,” written by British composer Michael Nyman for the occasion and performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The work was inspired by 1,500 recordings made at BASF offices and plants. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on hand, and in addition to praising the company, she did remind the audience about BASF’s role in supplying chemical weapons during World War I and gas used in the Holocaust. BASF’s strategic initiatives were modest during its birthday year.
So, here was a list of world’s top 10 petrochemicals companies 2017 which produce some of the most important commodities in the world without which living in this world would be quite difficult.