Petrochemicals, also known as petroleum distillates, are derived from various chemical compounds, mainly from hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons are derived from crude oil, natural gas or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane. Petrochemicals are primarily divided into three classes depending on their chemical structure – olefins, aromatics and synthesis gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen).

Today, petrochemical products are used to produce the entire spectrum of daily use items across various industries, including automotive, agriculture,textiles, construction, electronics and electrical, household items, medical appliances, packaging and pharmaceutical.

According to research and consulting firm GlobalData, the global petrochemicals capacity is expected to grow from 1,457 million metric tons per annum (mmtpa) in 2015 to 1,735 mmtpa by 2020. The company’s latest report states that more than 700 planned projects are slated to come online in the next five years, driven primarily by China, the US, and Iran. Asia has over half of all planned projects, with China responsible for more than 170 projects with a total capacity of 64 mmtpa by 2019.

Here is the list of world’s major petrochemical companies:

Saudi Aramco: Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) has reported $478bn revenues in 2015. The Dhahran-based company has partnered with The Dow Chemical Company to launch a mixed feed steam cracker with a capacity to crack 85 million standard cubic feet per day of ethane at Sadara in Jubail Industrial City in 2016. The Sadara joint venture, which has a capacity to produce three million tons of performance plastics and high-value chemicals per year, is designed to meet growing demand in the region and in Asia. The company has also launched a specialty chemicals joint venture – Arlanxeo – in the Netherlands last year. Saudi Aramco is gearing up to launch the world’s largest ever IPO in 2018.











Image: Saudi Aramco's core area which includes the headquarters and office buildings in Dhahran city. Photo courtesy of Eagleamn/Wikipedia.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC): Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation has reported $299bn revenues in 2016. The Beijing-based company is the parent of PetroChina. The company has oil and gas assets and interests in more than 30 countries in Africa, Central Asia-Russia, America, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and other regions. It employs more than 1,636,500 people (2014).

Sinopec: Beijing-based China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Group) has reported $287bn revenues in 2016. The Chinese state-owned company’s key business activities include: production, marketing, storage, transportation of petrochemicals, natural gas chemicals, coal chemicals and other chemical products; exploration, design, consulting, construction and installation of petroleum and petrochemical engineering projects; and overhaul and maintenance of petroleum and petrochemical equipment. The company, which has a registered capital of RMB231.6bn ($34.4bn), employs 358,571 people (2015).












Image: Sinopec headquarters – 22 Chaoyangmen North Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China. Photo courtesy of WhisperToMe/Wikipedia.

Kuwait Petroleum Corp: The Kuwait's national oil company was founded by integrating oil and gas companies – KOC, KNPC, KOTC and PIC – in 1980. Its diverse business interests span across petroleum exploration, production, petrochemicals, refining, marketing, and transportation. The company, with $252bn revenues in 2014, emerged as one of the largest petrochemical firms in the world.

Royal Dutch Shell: Royal Dutch Shell, a British–Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the UK, has reported $234bn revenues in 2016. Shell first entered the chemicals industry in 1929. Shell operates across more than 70 countries and employs over 92,000 people.













Image: Royal Dutch Shell head office, Carel van Bylandtlaan, The Hague. Photo courtesy of P.L. van Till/Wikipedia.

Exxon Mobil: Texas-based Exxon Mobil has reported $218bn revenues in 2016. The company was formed in 1999 by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. The company is one of the world’s largest integrated refiners, marketers of petroleum products and chemical manufacturers. During the second quarter of 2017, Exxon Mobil signed an agreement with Jurong Aromatics to acquire an aromatics plant located on Jurong Island in Singapore. The plant, which has an annual production capacity of 1.4 million metric tons, will strengthen both operational and logistical synergies for ExxonMobil’s integrated refining and petrochemical complex nearby.

BP: BP, formerly British Petroleum, has reported revenue of $183bn in 2016. The company, which has presence in 72 countries, produced 14.2 million tons of petrochemicals last year. BP manufactures, sells and distributes petrochemicals, mainly using proprietary BP technology. As part of strategy to refocus its global petrochemicals business for long-term growth, BP has divested its Decatur petrochemicals complex in Alabama in March 2016. The company employs 74,500 people across the globe.

Total: French multinational integrated oil and gas company Total has reported $150bn revenues in 2016. Despite of a significant program of shutdown in the Refining & Chemicals segment during the 2017 second quarter, the company continued to grow its petrochemicals business with the start-up of ethane-based ethylene production at Antwerp in Belgium and the launch of major projects at Port Arthur in the US and at Daesan in South Korea. The company employs over 100,000 people in more than 130 countries.



















Image: The Total building (Total HQ) in la Défense near Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Tangopaso (talk)/Wikipedia.

Bayer: German multinational company Bayer, which deals with both pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals, has reported $47bn revenues in 2016. The company's primary areas of business include human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare products, agricultural chemicals and biotechnology products, and high value polymers. As of 31 December 2016, the Bayer Group had 115,200 employees worldwide.

Ineos: UK-based privately owned multinational company Ineos has reported $40bn revenue in 2015. It comprises 18 businesses each with a major chemical company heritage. The company operates 67 manufacturing facilities across 16 countries and employs 17,000 people. Jim Ratcliffe has been the chairman of Ineos since its inception in 1998.