Different Sectors of the Chemical Industry!

Chemical Industry

According to the latest published Chemical Sector Profile, there are mainly five sectors that embody the chemical industry: Agricultural Chemicals, Basic Chemicals, Specialty Chemicals, Consumer Products, and Pharmaceuticals.

In the following, we will discuss each of these sectors in short. If you want to investigate the products used in each industry and need technical documents about each chemical you can visit teamchem.co

The chemical industry is the industry responsible for producing the following products:

  • Petrochemicals – over 50% of chemical products are produced using petroleum
  • Synthetic resins and plastics – synthetic resins are used in multiple products, including plastics such as G10, varnishes, and paints. Paints that are produced using synthetic resins are far more resistant to heat and oxidation when applied on metal surfaces.
  • Synthetic polymers – sodium poly (styrene sulfonate-co-maleic anhydride) is the chemical used in drilling fluids. Drilling fluids are used in oil-field operations.
  • Textile fibers – textile fibers that are manufactured by semisynthetic methods using polymer-based materials.
  • Synthetic rubber – polymers made from crude oil. Rubber is used in making numerous products. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and drugs – this sector is entirely dependent on the latest developments in the chemical industry. 
  • Soap, detergents, and cosmetics
  • Paint, varnishes, and printing inks
  • Fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals
  • Adhesives and sealants
  • Dyes and pigments
  • Paper
  • Glass

In the following, we will discuss some of these products in short.

Agricultural Chemicals and the Environment

The agricultural industry is probably the most significant sector affected by the chemical industry. The developments in the chemical industry allowed this sector to develop rapidly and ensure the economic growth of most countries.

However, the developments in this field have raised many environmental concerns due to the disposal of chemicals used in fertilizers in water resources. One of these chemicals is Nitrate. Nitrate is associated with two serious diseases: methemoglobinemia (blue-baby syndrome) in infants and stomach cancer in adults.

Chemical fertilizers are also harmful to the soil. They destroy micro-organisms that enrich the soil that help the crops grow faster. They also lead to soil corrosion. Chemical fertilizers such as Alkaline Soil and Sodium Nitrate by increasing the alkalinity of the soil decrease its fertility, and make it barren.

Organic and Inorganic Basic Chemicals

There are mainly two types of basic chemicals: inorganic and organic chemicals. Organic chemicals are compounds that contain carbon and inorganic chemicals are those that do not contain carbon.

Many products, including plastics, synthetic fibers, drugs, etc. are manufactured based on organic materials. One of the most significant organic chemicals is Ethylene. Ethylene is used to make plastics. And Ethanol, the industrial alcohol, is used in medical sectors.

Another organic chemical is Benzene which is used to make a wide range of everyday products, including plastics, detergents, textile fibers, drugs, dyes, and insecticides. 

One of the most significant inorganic chemicals is Sulfuric Acid which is used in making fertilizers, synthetic rubber, paints, and car batteries. It is also used within the oil industry for crude oil refinement. Phosphoric Acid is another inorganic used in large quantities to make multiple products, including fertilizers, detergents, animal food, soft drinks, and baking powder.

Clean Technology for Manufacturing Specialty Chemicals

Specialty chemicals are chemicals produced by special manufacturers and for specific purposes. That is to say, these are not mass-produced chemicals; they are highly exclusive when it comes to their production and distribution.

Adhesives, antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals used in construction like advanced ceramic materials, food flavors, and additives, and chemicals used in cosmetics and fragrances are considered specialty chemicals.

However, these chemicals’ production leads to many environmental challenges and toxic wastes that must be treated as immense threats to life on earth. That is why the concept of Green Chemistry provides solutions in the production and application stage of these chemicals to reduce their waste and their safety concerns to a bare minimum.

One of the hazardous specialty chemicals is Lithium Aluminum Hydride (LAH) which is used in several pharmaceutical drugs and interstitial hydride production. If you breathe Lithium Aluminum Hydride, it can cause damage to your lungs and might even lead to painful skin burns.

Another specialty chemical that has proved to be harmful is Acrolein used in papermaking. If you breathe Acrolein, it can cause respiratory issues for you since it irritates your lungs. Prolonged exposure to Acrolein might even lead to passing out.

Chemical Engineering of Consumer Products

One of the most critical aspects of the chemical industry is the latest developments in the field that would help produce improved, less expensive and more environmentally-friendly consumer products.

Chemical engineering, which puts the technologies and methods introduced in the Chemistry laboratories into practical use to make refined material, is an essential part of this process. Nitrogen is an inorganic chemical used in the food industry for food processing purposes. Another inorganic chemical used for chemical engineering purposes is Oxygen which is used for sewage treatment and metal treatment to make steel. 

Chemical engineering has made the production of many customer products possible. We have listed some of these products in the following:

  1. Synthetic rubber – we produce everything from our car’s tires to the rubber bands we use in the kitchen from synthetic rubber.
  2. Antibiotics – without chemical engineering, mass production of pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics would not be possible. 
  3. Polymers – plastics (nylons and PVC) are the most widely used consumer products. 
  4. Synthetic fibers – we produce the materials used for fabrics and carpets thanks to the chemical engineering of natural products such as animal hair, fur, and cocoons. 
  5. Cryogenic separation of air into Oand N2: Nis used in the agricultural industry to produce fertilizers, and “Oin medicine and metals processing”.
  6. Catalytic cracking of crude oil – we produce the gas we use in our cars through the chemical engineering of petroleum.
  7. Pollution control – chemical engineering provides the solutions to the health and environmental hazards caused by the chemical industry by chemically engineering the chemicals that create pollution in the first place.
  8. Fertilizers, especially ammonia – new fertilizers developed by the chemical engineering of the previously hazardous materials do not pose the same risks of soil corrosion and water contamination.
  9. Biomedical engineering – chemical engineering has played a significant role in developing artificial body organs such as the heart and lungs.

Medical Monopoly in Pharmaceutical Industry

 The pharmaceutical industry is one of the main benefactors of the chemical industry. The advances in medicine could not have happened had it not been for the advances in the chemical industry. As stated above, one of the most significant products of the chemical industry is antibiotics. We will lose millions of lives in an instant without antibiotics. We have listed some lab-produced chemicals used in pharmaceutical drugs in the following:

  • Ammonium Chloride –is used as a component in skin cleansers.
  • Barium Sulfate –is used in radiography to provide a clear picture of the various body organs.
  • Calcium Carbonate – is used as a supplement for people who do not consume enough Calcium.
  • Ferrous Sulfate – is prescribed for people who suffer from iron deficiency anemia.
  • Hydroquinone – is used to treat the dark spots on the skin caused by injury or surgery.
  • Sodium Chloride – is used in hospitals to prevent dehydration in patients.

 However, in modern times, the nature of the pharmaceutical industry has changed; it has developed from an agency built to maintain and protect human lives to an organization that mainly operates according to financial gains. 


Duncan, T., M., & Reimer, J., A. (1998). Chemical Engineering: Design and Analysis, An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. 

Gabriel, J., M. (2014). Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry. The University of Chicago Press. 

Hester, R., E., & Harrison, R., M. (1996). Agricultural Chemicals and the Environment. RSC Publishing. 

Hoyle, W., & Lancaster, M. (2001). Clean Technology for the Manufacture of Specialty Chemicals. RSC Publishing. 

Smiley, R., A., & Jackson, H., L.. (2002). Chemistry and the Chemical Industry: A Practical Guide for Non-Chemists. CRC Press.

The Chemical Sector Profile. 

visit at: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Chemical-Sector-Profile_Final%20508.pdf

Chemical industry article and permission to publish here provided by Hadis Jafari. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on August 5, 2022.