Polyethylene Story - From Natural Gas to Garbage Bags From earth to earth


Isn't it great that whenever you have to throw away trash, you have plastic garbage bags available for your use? Have you ever wondered how the garbage bags are made?

Garbage bags start off as natural gas, believe it or not! Garbage bags are made from polyethylene polymers. The polymers come from ethylene gas, which derive from ethane gas, which comes from natural gas from the ground! This document will take you back to the first steps in making garbage bags. We will show you how the natural gas and oil are recovered from underground, how natural gas is separated from the mixture after it reaches the surface, and how ethane is separated from the rest of the natural gas components. Once ethane is separated, it is fed to a thermal cracker to be converted into ethylene which travels a reactor to convert into polyethylene polymers for garbage bags.

The polyethylene story unfolds in many stages.

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This story was prepared by

  • Tracy Guffee
  • Saket Kumar
  • Ahn Tu Nguyen
  • Kelly O'Brien

as part of Chem. Eng. 475, Mathematical Modeling of Chemical Engineering Systems.

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