Trichloroethylene is a chlorinated hydrocarbon with a molecular formula of C2HCl3. It is colourless liquid with a sweet smell that is widely used as a vapour degreaser for metal parts. This product is a non-flammable liquid, having no measurable flashpoint or flammable limits in air. It is miscible with most organic solvents but only slightly miscible in water.
Trichloroethylene is mainly produced from ethylene. Ethylene is chlorinated at high temperatures (around 400° C) over the catalyst ferric chloride to produce 1.2-dichloroethane. A further distillation process helps purify the solvent.
Storage and distribution
A chemical trader 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. Solvents such as trichloroethylene 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, trichloroethylene 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.
The major use of trichloroethylene is as an industrial solvent for the vapour de-greasing and cold cleaning of metal parts. Trichloroethylene is also used as an extraction solvent for greases, oils, fats, waxes, and tars, a chemical intermediate in the production of other chemicals (e.g. insecticides and fungicides) and as a refrigerant. It is also used in consumer products such as paint stripper, adhesive, cleansing fluids and correction fluids. The main user end market is the plastics, metal, paints, adhesive and cleansing industries.