Chapter 1

Global Polyethylene Business Overview

1.1 Introduction

Over the past 80 years the organic material designated as polyethylene has evolved from a laboratory curiosity into a global polyethylene business with a global demand in 2010 of more than 68 million metric tons (150 billion pounds), accounting for the creation of a large number of worldwide jobs involving the manufacture, fabrication and distribution of polyethylene and end-use products. These products involve the transformation of the polymeric material into thousands of necessary applications that have improved the standard of living of people around the globe.

The purpose of this chapter is to summarize the status of the global polyethylene business as of 2012 and to briefly discuss some historical aspects of this business which demonstrate how the technology of this seemingly simple material has continually improved over the course of eight decades as the result of the efforts of thousands of scientists and engineers worldwide. Other chapters in this book will discuss the technical development of the polyethylene business in more detail.

1.2 The Business of Polyethylene

The manufacture of polyethylene is a capital-intensive, complex business involving three distinct business categories:

1. Utilization of hydrocarbon-based feedstock such as naphtha or ethane to manufacture ethylene.
2. Polymerization of ethylene into an intermediate polyethylene material designated as low-density polyethylene with a material ...

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