• Everyday Uses

    Most modern aircraft interiors are made using sophisticated plastics, which are developed from petrochemical building blocks such as ethylene, propylene and benzene. These materials allow for lighter weight, which reduces fuel usage and lowers the overall carbon footprint of aircraft, and must meet stringent specifications for fire resistance and toxic by-products. Examples of components of a commercial aircraft which utilize petrochemical-based products include:

    • Floor and Floor Coverings: Made from fiberglass or carbon/epoxy or phenolic/Nomex® honeycomb for the floor panels. Wool or nylon are used in the carpet with double-backed tapes to attach carpet to floor and a Nomex® felt underlay.
    • Galley Mats: Made from the petrochemical-based polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
    • Glazing: acrylic resins account for the majority of petrochemical-based plastics used in aircraft glazing with polycarbonate resins accounting for most of the remainder.
    • Jet Engine: Carbon/polyimide and carbon/epoxy composites are used in jet aircraft engines for nacelles (i.e., enclosure panels for the engine), thrust reversers, inner cowl cores and exit guide vanes.
    • Light Covers: Made from the petrochemical-based polycarbonate.
    • Lower Sidewall panels: Made from polyetherimide foam boards.
    • Overhead Stowage Bins: Made from fiberglass or carbon/phenolic/Nomex® honeycomb with an edge urethane foam layer.
    • Seats: Made from wool, wool/nylon, or leather upholstery with urethane foam cushions.
    • Upper Sidewall Panels: Made from fiberglass or carbon/phenolic/decorative thermoplastic layer.
    • Windows: The outer panel is made from stretched acrylic and inner windows made of polycarbonate.
    • Other Items: Flotation foams (made from polyethylene foam) and seat trays made from carbon fiber filled polyetherimide.

    About 336 pounds of petrochemical-derived plastics, composites, rubber, coating and textile products are used in the average automobile. Examples of petrochemical-based products used in automobiles are listed below:

    • Air Bag Housings, Brake System Parts and Windshield Wipers : Made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) due to their chemical resistance to automotive fluids, dimensional stability, processibility, high heat resistance and good ductility.
    • Belts and Hoses: Made from ethylene/propylene elastomers due to their outstanding resistance to ozone, aging and weathering, good heat resistance and low-temperature flexibility.
    • Headlight Lens: made from polycarbonate.
    • Instrument Panel and Center Console : Made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or a combination of polycarbonate and ABS.
    • Interior Trim: made from ABS or polycarbonate/ABS.
    • Radiator Grill, Air Conditioning/Heater Duct Doors, Sunroof Frames and Rear/Side Louvers : Made from PET and PBT due to good finished-parts appearance as well as resistance to solvents, moisture and gasoline.
    • Side Mirror Housings: made from polycarbonate/PBT or polycarbonate/a crylonitrile styrene acrylate (ACA).
    • Tires: Made from styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and SBR blended with ethylene-propylene rubber or nitrile rubber.

    Click here to see a chart of the products made from petrochemicals.

    Petrochemical-based materials play a critical role in the building and construction industry. A number of examples are listed below:

    • Decks, Fences and Railings: Lumber made from recycled plastics or plastic-wood composites are comprised of petrochemical-based products such as polyethylene.
    • Insulation: Petrochemical-based insulating and sealing products such as spray polyurethane foam, expandable polystyrene insulating panels for walls and insulated vinyl siding are used to insulate homes.
    • Piping: Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE).
    • Plastic House Wrap: Made from polyethylene with polypropylene mesh.
    • Roofing: Made with spray polyurethane foam.
    • Walls: Structural insulation panels (SIPs) made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) which help homeowners save on heating and cooling bills. PVC is increasingly found in durable, easy-to-clean vinyl wall coverings.
    • Windows: Plastics rival traditional materials for windows and frames. Polycarbonate, a material used in eyeglasses, is used in windows. PVC is used for window frames which diminishes heat transfer from wood rot.

    Petrochemical-based materials play a critical role in the defense sector. Several examples are noted below:

    • Army Combat Uniforms (ACU): Blend of cotton and nylon, a synthetic fiber produced from petrochemical derivatives including hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid. ACU was designed by soldiers to meet the demands of the current operational environment by increasing a soldier’s ability to train, adapt and fight in ever-changing environments. Approximately 50% of the ACU is made of nylon.
    • Military Combat Boots: Utilize a blend of natural and synthetic materials, with over 50% of the boot made from materials that have their origin from crude oil or natural gas. Synthetic materials such as polyurethane, nylon fabric and synthetic rubbers are all used in the military combat boot.
    • Military Helmets: Made of synthetic materials such as Spectra Shield® material which contains a very high molecular weight, high density polyethylene. Helmets can also be made of Kevlar® which is an aromatic polyamide fiber.
    • Military Packs: Made of approximately 100% nylon.
    • Military Vests: Made from Kevlar®, a carbon-based aramid (a term invented as an abbreviation for aromatic polyamide, or aromatic nylon fiber).
    • Tactical Insertion Accessories: Made of approximately 100% petrochemical-based materials. For example the material for the rope used when soldiers are fast-roping is made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE).

    A range of petrochemical-based materials are used in electronics and appliance applications. A list of several examples are below:

    • Air Conditioner: Petrochemicals are used extensively in the manufacture of air conditioner including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer (ABS), polypropylene (PP) and nylon.
    • Cell Phone: Over 50% of a cell phone is comprised of petrochemical-based plastics. Polycarbonate is primarily used in the casing and polyimide laminates are used in the making of the circuit board.
    • Computer: A wide variety of plastics is used in the LCD displays including polycarbonate, polyacetate (PA) and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Other petrochemical-derived plastics used in computers include ABS, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high impact polystyrene (HIPS), expandable polystyrene (EPS), polyphenylene oxide (PPO), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and polyethylene (PE).
    • Dish Washer: Petrochemicals are used extensively in dish washers, including synthetic rubber used in hoses, belts, and gaskets as well as plastic resins, plasticizers, and other additives and coatings. The more common petrochemicals used in appliances are polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP) and polycarbonate.
    • Fitness Band: Enclosures are made of petrochemical-based plastics, epoxies and silicone rubber while the wristband is made of molded plastic with silicone rubber.
    • Freezer: Petrochemicals are used extensively in the manufacture of home appliances, such as the freezer, including ABS polymer, PS and PP.
    • Refrigerator: ABS is used in refrigerator liners and other components. High impact polystyrene (HIPS) is used in trim, racks and similar appliance components. Where cold temperature impact properties are not important, PP is used. ABS resins are used in refrigerator and freezer liners and other components, while polystyrene is used in the trim, racks, buckets, liners, trays, covers and similar appliance components.
    • Television: A wide variety of plastics is used in the more modern LCD displays including polycarbonate, polyacetate (PA), and PMMA. Other petrochemical-derived plastics include ABS, PVC, HIPS, EPS, PPO, PBT and PE.
    • Washing Machine: Petrochemicals are used extensively in washing machine, including synthetic rubber used in hoses, belts, and gaskets as well as plastic resins, plasticizers and other additives and coatings. The more common petrochemicals used in appliances are polyurethane, ABS polymer, PS and PP.
    • Water Heater: Petrochemicals are used extensively in the manufacture of home appliances, such as the water heater, including synthetic rubber used in hoses, belts, and gaskets as well as plastic resins, plasticizers, and other additives and coatings. The more common petrochemicals used in appliances are polyurethane, ABS polymer, PS and PP.

    Petrochemical-based plastics are used extensively in food and beverage packaging to help preserve freshness, reduce spoilage and packaging weight, and improve product delivery and customer convenience. Key petrochemical-based materials used are polyethylene (i.e., high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Beverage containers typically are made from petrochemical-based plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or HDPE.

    Over the past 30 years, petrochemical-based plastics are increasingly becoming replacements for glass and paper options. A range of factors have contributed to the high rate of substitution including:

    • Delivering more with less – one pound of petrochemical-based plastic can deliver 500 ounces of a beverage. It would take 150% more aluminum or over 10 times more glass to deliver the same amount of product.
    • Making food packaging more efficient – plastic jars can use up to approximately 90% less material by weight than their glass counterparts and 38% less than steel cans.
    • Improving through innovation – two-liter plastic beverage bottles and gallon milk jugs weigh approximately a third less than they did in the 1970s.

    Petrochemicals play a critical role in the medical industry including personal protective wear, medicine, medical apparel and devices. Several examples of petrochemical-based products used in the industry are listed below.

    • Aspirin: One of the most important products made from phenol is salicylic acid and a derivative acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin).
    • Blood Bags: Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyolefins (polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP)).
    • Catheters/Tubing: Made from PVC and is the preferred material used as tubing for medical applications. PVC tubes coated with Teflon (PTFE), blends of polyether-ester and ethylene acid copolymer also are used in medical tubing and catheters.
    • Face Masks: Made from spun-bond irradiated polypropylene, meltblown polypropylene and soft latex-free elastic.
    • Gloves: Surgical gloves are made from a variety of materials which include petrochemical-based latex, polyisoprene, neoprene and nitrile.
    • Hand Sanitizer: Major ingredients found in hand sanitizers are ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and propylene glycol.
    • Medical and Surgical Gowns: Reusable medical and surgical gowns are typically a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester, rayon and polyester or similar blended material. Disposable gowns use polypropylene as the main material. Polyester also is used in scrubs. Surgical gowns can be made of specialty polyolefins, nonwoven polypropylene, laminated polypropylene/polyethylene, laminated polyester/wood pulp and other tech-fabrics derived from petrochemicals.
    • Surgical Gloves: Contain the latex, polyisoprene, nitrile and neoprene.
    • Sutures: Absorbable sutures can be made from polyglactin, poliglecaprone and polysorb. Non-absorbable sutures are made from nylon, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), PP and polybutester.
    • Wound Care: Made from polyester or polyester blends with rayon, wood pulp or other inert material, such as polyurethane, hydrogels and elastomers.

    Paints and coatings provide two primary functions that are of considerable importance – decoration and protection. Without paint and coatings, product lives can be drastically shortened and many products would not be marketable. Petrochemicals play a critical role in the paints and coatings industry.

    Petrochemicals in paints and coatings include synthetic resins such as acrylic, vinyl, urethane and alkyd resins as well as organic solvents including aromatics and aliphatics. Acrylic surface coatings are the leading finishes used in the paint and coatings industry. They are based on polymers derived from the esters of acrylic acid (acrylates) and/or methacrylic acid (methacrylates). They are noted for their inertness and excellent color retention when exposed to exterior conditions. Vinyl coatings are based on the emulsions of vinyl acetate copolymers, solvent-based copolymers or vinyl chloride and acetate and PVC dispersions. Vinyl coatings are characterized by good color retention, mildew resistance and pigment binding.

    Petrochemical-based products play role in personal protective equipment (PPE). Over 80% of the materials used in PPEs originate from petrochemicals. A list of examples is below:

    • Face Mask: The simplest face masks are a formed piece of nonwoven polypropylene fabric. More elaborate face masks with a visor that covers the entire face are made from acetate or polycarbonates.
    • Hearing Protection: Ear plugs are typically made of polyurethane foam with memory. Ear muffs are 90% petrochemical-based and contain polyurethane, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polyolefin and elastomer.
    • Protective Clothing: Approximately 90% of protective clothing is made from Nomex® which is an aramid fiber.
    • Protective Footwear: Made from neoprene or other butyl rubber formulations, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polymer-composite and Kevlar® which is an aromatic polyamide fiber.
    • Protective Helmets: Made from approximately 90% high density polyethylene (HDPE) and 10% spandex to offer protection from impact and penetration hazards as well as electric shock and burn hazards.
    • Respiratory Equipment: A facemask and respirator are made with the petrochemicals polyurethane foam, polypropylene fiber filters and ABS casing.
    • Safety Goggles: Made from plastics such as polycarbonate or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) to protect and shield the eye from foreign objects. Goggles need to be splash-proof, shatter-proof and provide clear visibility.

    Petrochemical-based products play a key role in the renewable energy industry including:

    • Solar Cells: Petrochemical-based plastics used in the manufacture of solar cells include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate, polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and acrylics. Solar modules that comprise the photovoltaic cell, glazing and connectors are encased in petrochemical-based material such as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA).
    • Wind Turbine Blades: 45% of wind turbine blades are made up of petrochemical-based materials including epoxy and vinyl esters, polyacrylonitrile, PVC, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) and polyurethane. A large wind turbine containing 30 to 50 meter long blades would contain 27,000 pounds of petrochemical-based materials in the turbine blades alone.

    Petrochemical-based products play a key role in sports equipment, performance apparel and the new trend of wearables. These products provide advancements for product and performance gains, light weighting and creating a better overall athletic experience. Examples of petrochemical-based products in the sports and leisure area are listed below:

    • Golf Clubs: Golf club shafts can be made from carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy resin. Grips are typically molded synthetic rubber or leather and even traditional wood clubs are coated in a synthetic, petrochemical-based finish.
    • Helmets: Helmets are made from a range of materials including polycarbonate shells with foam padding consisting of polystyrene, polypropylene or ethylene vinyl acetate inside.
    • Hockey sticks: The shaft of the stick is primarily made of wood, aluminum or composite-carbon fiber, incorporating epoxy or polymeric resin.
    • Racquets: The racquet core is usually a urethane foam. Strings are made of nylon and handles are covered in polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Composite layers can be carbon fiber, fiberglass or even Kevlar® which is an aromatic polyamide fiber.
    • Skis and Snowboards: The core can be polyurethane based along with an exterior of thermoplastic composites. Polyethylene (PE) is commonly used on the base of the ski and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer (ABS) on the sides near the middle.
    • Surfboard: The core consists of polyurethane foam while the outer shell is laminated with a resin such as polyester.

    Many textiles and apparel are made from petrochemical-based fibers.

    Common materials used in the textile industry include acrylic, nylon, olefins such as polypropylene (PS) and polyester. The top petrochemical-based material used in the carpet and rug industry is nylon while the top material in the apparel market is polyester.