All forms of poly(ethene) (PE) are made by the polymerisation of ethene, which is produced by the cracking of the naphtha fraction of crude oil. PE is therefore a petrochemical product.

The naphtha fraction contains hydrocarbos nwith chains of 5-10 carbon atoms. Steam cracking of this fraction yields a mixture of products, but if higher temperatures and short residence times are used, the proportion of ethene will be higher (over 30%). Further fractionation will be used to separate the products.

Diagram: producing ethene from crude oil

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