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Petroleum is probably best known as a source for many important fuels, such as gasoline , kerosene, acetylene, and natural gas . However, many of the organic compounds that make up the complex mixture known as petroleum have another use. They are raw materials used in the production of a host synthetic products. These chemicals are known as petrochemicals. To a large extent, these petrochemicals are hydrocarbons . Some of these petrochemicals and the products into which they are made include ethylene (plastics , synthetic fibers, and anti-freeze), benzene (synthetic rubber , latex paints and paper coatings), propylene (drugs and detergents ), and phenol (adhesives, perfumes, flavorings, and pesticides).

See also Fossil fuels; Synthetic fuels; Volatile organic compound

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petrochemical Chemical substance derived from petroleum or natural gas. The refining of petroleum is undertaken not only for fuels but also for a wide range of chemicals such as alkanes (paraffins) and alkenes (olefins), benzene, toluene, naphthalene, and their derivatives. They are used to produce detergents and nitrogen fertilizers.

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pet·ro·chem·i·cal / ˌpetrōˈkemikəl/ • adj. relating to or denoting substances obtained by the refining and processing of petroleum or natural gas: a huge petrochemical works producing plastics. ∎  of or relating to petrochemistry. • n. (usu. petrochemicals) a chemical obtained from petroleum and natural gas.

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