Ethylene is a colourless, odourless, extremely flammable compressed gas. It is slightly soluble in water and soluble in liquid hydrocarbons. It reacts with strong oxidants causing fire and is an explosion hazard. It may polymerise to form aromatic compounds under the influence of temperatures above 600°C.
Around 59% of the world’s ethylene demand is consumed in polyethylene production. Other major derivatives are ethylene oxide/glycol (13%), ethylene dichloride/vinyl chloride monomer (13%) and ethyl benzene/styrene (6%), with other uses such as acetaldehyde, alpha-olefins, ethylene-propylene elastomers and vinyl acetate representing around 9% of demand.
Although ethylene gas poses no risk to skin or eyes, the ethylene liquid can cause frostbite. Ethylene is a dangerous fire and explosion hazard. Exposure to ethylene occurs through inhalation, from leaks, spills, accidents, and cigarette smoke. While ethylene gas is invaluable due to its ability to initiate the ripening process in several fruits, it can also be very harmful to many fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants by accelerating the ageing process and decreasing the product quality and shelf life.
To find out more Ethylene Methodology November 2012