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The chemical industry comprises the companies that produce industrial chemicals. Central to the modern world economy, it converts raw materials (oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals) into more than 70,000 different products. The plastics industry contains some overlap, as some chemical companies produce plastics as well as chemicals.

Various professionals are involved in the chemical industry including chemical engineers, chemists and lab technicians. As of 2018, the chemical industry comprises approximately 15% of the US manufacturing economic sector.

Distillation columns

The scale of chemical manufacturing tends to be organized from largest in volume (Chemical processes such as chemical reactions operate in chemical plants to form new substances in various types of reaction vessels. In many cases the reactions take place in special corrosion-resistant equipment at elevated temperatures and pressures with the use of catalysts. The products of these reactions are separated using a variety of techniques including distillation especially fractional distillation, precipitation, crystallization, adsorption, filtration, sublimation, and drying.

The processes and product or products are usually tested during and after manufacture by dedicated instruments and on-site quality control laboratories to ensure safe operation and to assure that the product will meet required specifications. More organizations within the industry are implementing chemical compliance software to maintain quality products and manufacturing standards.[26] The products are packaged and delivered by many methods, including pipelines, tank-cars, and tank-trucks (for both solids and liquids), cylinders, drums, bottles, and boxes. Chemical companies often have a research-and-development laboratory for developing and testing products and processes. These facilities may include pilot plants, and such research facilities may be located at a site separate from the production plant(s).

The scale of chemical manufacturing tends to be organized from largest in volume (petrochemicals and commodity chemicals), to specialty chemicals, and the smallest, fine chemicals.

The petrochemical and commodity chemical manufacturing units are on the whole single product continuous processing plants. Not all petrochemical or commodity chemical materials are made in one single location, but groups of related materials often are to induce industrial symbiosis as well as material, energy and utility efficiency and other economies of scale.

Those chemicals made on the largest of scales are made in a few manufacturing locations around the world, for example in Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf Coast of the United States, on Teesside in the Northeast of England in the United Kingdom, and in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The large scale ma

The petrochemical and commodity chemical manufacturing units are on the whole single product continuous processing plants. Not all petrochemical or commodity chemical materials are made in one single location, but groups of related materials often are to induce industrial symbiosis as well as material, energy and utility efficiency and other economies of scale.

Those chemicals made on the largest of scales are made in a few manufacturing locations around the world, for example in Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf Coast of the United States, on Teesside in the Northeast of England in the United Kingdom, and in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The large scale manufacturing locations often have clusters of manufacturing units that share utilities and large scale infrastructure such as power stations, port facilities, road and rail terminals. To demonstrate the clustering and integration mentioned above, some 50% of the United Kingdom's petrochemical and commodity chemicals are produced by the Northeast of England Process Industry Cluster on Teesside.

Specialty chemical and fine chemical manufacturing are mostly made in discrete batch processes. These manufacturers are often found in similar locations but in many cases they are to be found in multi sector business parks.

In the U.S. there are 170 major chemical companies.[27] They operate internationally with more than 2,800 facilities outside the U.S. and 1,700 foreign subsidiaries or affiliates operating. The U.S. chemical output is $750 billion a year. The U.S. industry records large trade surpluses and employs more than a million people in the United States alone. The chemical industry is also the second largest consumer of energy in manufacturing and spends over $5 billion annually on pollution abatement.

In Europe the chemical, plastics and rubber sectors are among the largest industrial sectors.[citation needed<

In Europe the chemical, plastics and rubber sectors are among the largest industrial sectors.[citation needed] Together they generate about 3.2 million jobs in more than 60,000 companies. Since 2000 the chemical sector alone has represented 2/3 of the entire manufacturing trade surplus of the EU.

In 2012, the chemical sector accounted for 12% of the EU manufacturing industry's added value. Europe remains world's biggest chemical trading region with 43% of the world's exports and 37% of the world's imports, although the latest data shows that Asia is catching up with 34% of the exports and 37% of imports.[28] Even so, Europe still has a trading surplus with all regions of the world except Japan and China where in 2011 there was a chemical trade balance. Europe's trade surplus with the rest of the world today amounts to 41.7 billion Euros.[29]

Over the 20 years between 1991 and 2011 the European Chemical industry saw its sales increase 295 billion Euros to 539 billion Euros, a picture of constant growth. Despite this the European industry's share of the world chemical market has fallen from 36% to 20%. This has resulted from the huge increase production and sales in the emerging markets like India and China.[30] The data suggest that 95% of this impact is from China alone. In 2012 the data from the European Chemical Industry Council shows that five European countries account for 71% of the EU's chemicals sales. These are Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands.[31]

The chemical industry has shown rapid growth for more than fifty years.[citation needed] The fastest-growing areas have involved the manufacture of synthetic organic polymers used as plastics, fibres and elastomers. Historically and presently the chemical industry has been concentrated in three areas of the world, Western Europe, North America and Japan (the Triad). The European Community remains the largest producer area followed by the US and Japan.

The traditional dominance of chemical production by the Triad countries is being challenged by changes in feedstock availability and price, labour cost, energy cost, differential rates of economic growth and environmental pressures. Instrumental in the changing structure of the global chemical industry has been the growth in China, India, Korea, the Middle East, South East Asia, Nigeria, and Brazil.

Just as companies emerge as the main producers of the chemical industry, we can also look on a more global scale to how industrialized countries rank, with regards to the billions of dollars worth of production a country or region could export. Though the business of chemistry is worldwide in scope, the bulk of the world's $3.7 trillion chemical output is accounted for by only a handful of industrialized nations. The United States alone produced $689 billion, 18.6 percent of the total world chemical output in 2008.[32]