95% of current world production of phenol is manufactured by the oxidation of 1-methylethylbenzene (cumene), which is itself produced by the reaction of benzene and propene. Both benzene and propene are produced by the distillation and cracking of crude oil (see Benzene story).

Phenol is therefore a petrochemical as currently produced, the development of a viable one-step process being the target in this direction.


Research into methods using biomass holds the possibility of a move away from petrochemical feedstock to renewable resources. Currently phenolic resins are made from pyrolysis oil produced from biomass, mainly waste softwoods. This contribution is important because of their extensive use in the manufacture of widely used wood panel products like plywood and MDF.


photo: wood products

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