A Look Into the Petrochemical Industry

Petrochemical Industry | Flowmetrics

Many industries, the petrochemical industry in particular, are in the business of processing oil or gas for all or part of the manufacturing process. Once the oil has gone through the refining process, it is placed in intermediate tanks and made into marketable products, such as gasoline and other petrochemicals.

Oil has been used for lighting and fuel for thousands of years and, while there are modern energy solutions available, it is still an integral part of manufacturing. When it comes to the manufacturing industry, oil and gas are an essential part of the petrochemical industry as demand rises for more cost effective synthetic materials.

What are Petrochemicals?

Petrochemicals are chemical products where the main feedstock is hydrocarbons. Examples of common petrochemicals are fertilizers and plastics. Oil is processed at a refinery before heading to a manufacturing plant and a similar process occurs with gas.

Popular Petrochemicals

The most common petrochemicals manufactured are:

  • Olefins: these include ethylene, propylene and butadiene, which are the main source of plastics and rubber.
  • Aromatics: include benzene, toluene and xylenes which are common sources of dyes and detergents, as well as plastics.
  • Synthesis gas: used in the production of ammonia and methanol.


A stream is a contract to purchase a percentage of a gas and oil company’s production of a licensed field. When it comes to manufacturing level, the stream would be the flow of the gas or liquid that passes through machinery and pipes in the petrochemical plant.

Once oils and gases reach manufacturing plants, flowstream meters become an important part of the manufacturing process. A flowstream meter is a device that is used when measuring oils and gases that move through a pipe or line. Some flowmeters measure the amount of liquid passing through it during a certain time period and others measure the total amount transmitted altogether.

Flowstream Meters for Gas

Manufacturers use flowstream meters in industries that use oil and/or gas, such as the petrochemical industry, in order to understand how much of it is flowing through lines and pipes. In terms of flowmeter used for gas, there are several options available, with most modern models having the following features:

  • LCD display of flow rate of temperature and pressure
  • Current, voltage or pulse out
  • CSA and CE certified
  • Fast results
  • Compatible with most common gases such as nitrogen, helium, hydrogen and natural gas
  • Weatherproof
  • Built-in alarms
  • NIST traceable
  • Easy to install

The is a number of styles of flowmeter on the market, including:

Out of the above flowmeters, the three most popular flowmeters are variable flowmeters, positive displacement flowmeters and variable flowmeters.

Variable Flowmeters

The variable flowmeter, also known as a rotameter, provides readings that are taken by looking at the position of a float within a metering tube. The measurements are based on the linear function of the flow rate and the results are relatively precise, given the price that a business would pay for this style of flowmeter.


Turbine Flowmeters

Turbine flowmeters work by determining the flow velocity by using a rotor that is suspended within the meter. The faster the gas moves the more pulses are generated by the transmitter that provides the reading.

Positive Displacement Flowmeters

Positive displacement flowmeters, also referred to as PD flowmeters or volumetric flowmeters, are unique in that they are the only meters that can measure the actual volume of a liquid. This particular flowmeter is good for industries that work with high volumes of viscous liquids.

Using Differential Pressure Flowmeters

Most flowmeters should only be used when the gas is dry and clean, although some flowmeters can handle small amounts of dirt or debris. Care needs to be taken with the temperate and pressure that surrounds the flowmeter, so as not to affect its functionality.

Flowstream Meters for Oil

The above flowmeters are also available for the use of oils (both clean oil and lubrication oil). Flowmeters for oil feature a range of technologies, including:

  • Vane Style flowmeters for lubrication
  • Positive displacement flowmeters for clean oil
  • Coriolis mass flowmeters for clean oil

Oil flow meters are generally more reliable and are easier to use than gas flow meters – liquid is easy to measure as it is denser.

Manufacturing Petrochemicals

The standard specification of gasoline will vary from industry to industry depending on the needs of the manufacturer. Some companies will add unique additives to the gas to make a specialized product and other manufacturers will simply use it to help produce their product. The primary petrochemicals are the building blocks to develop a wide range of materials and products. Each primary petrochemical will instigate a series of chain of reactions that leads to over 200 chemicals.

There are various steps taken to reach an end product and each industry will have key processes to follow, most based on polymerization. Most petrochemicals are made through the use of high temperatures (over 1500 ⁰F) and high pressure (over 1000 psi). The process is very expensive and requires a lot of attention to detail so that there is no danger of wastage and/or loss of money.

The Future of the Petrochemical Industry

Petrochemicals are chemical products made from fossil fuels. It’s hard to imagine our existence without them. Without doubt, they are a vital part of our lives. They have even made way into our homes.

The petrochemical industry is meeting huge demands from across the world. This industry, along with many others (they are the foundation of every modern industry), are showing that while we do rely on oil and gas, it is now time to think about the long-term effects on the environment when it comes to being clean.

With this in mind, it is essential that you work with companies that promote an ethical outlook, such as in the ways they operate and how they view the potential toxicities of petrochemicals. It would also be a good idea to seek out other businesses that see the environment of equal importance as you do.

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