Hydrocarbons

Toluene

Toluene is a clear water-insoluble solvent with a molecular formula of C7H8.  It has an aromatic, benzene-like smell and is a highly volatile flammable liquid with a flash point of 4° C.  It is obtained from petroleum and coal tar and is predominantly used as a solvent in the manufacturing of other organic chemicals.

Production

Toluene is naturally released into the atmosphere from the following: petroleum fuels, toluene-based solvents, thinners and from motor vehicle exhaust fumes.  The current method to chemically manufacture toluene is through a catalytic reforming process.  A hydrocarbon mixture which is rich in aromatics is passed over a dehydrated catalyst and then obtained from a cut of the distillation or solvent extraction process.

Storage and distribution

A chemical wholesaler would have a bulk petrochemical storage facility to regulate this product.  Storage is normally in a cool, dry and well ventilated facility away from oxidising agents.  Toluene should be kept out of direct sunlight, heat and open flames.  Solvents such as toluene should be stored in drummed containers such as isotanks made of stainless steel, aluminium or carbon steel.

A bulk solvent exporter would normally distribute this solvent in bulk vessels or tank trucks.  For transportation purposes, toluene is classed as a flammable liquid with a fire hazard rating of 2.  A full bulk chemical distributor would export the solvent throughout regions such as the UK, Europe, Africa and America.  This product is a packing group 2.

Uses

The main chemical use of toluene is to make benzene, xylenes and other solvents.  It can also be used to manufacture other chemicals such as phenol, nitrobenzene, benzoic acid and benzyl chloride.  As a solvent, toluene can be used in paints, paint thinners, adhesives, inks, resins, cleaning agents, leather tanners and inks.  It can also be used to manufacture polymers that produce nylon, plastic soda bottles and for pharmaceuticals, dyes and cosmetic products.  Toluene is also used as a coolant in sodium cold traps underneath nuclear reactor loops.  The user end markets of this product are the chemical, paints, adhesive, cleaning, leather, plastics, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.