Voices: From the Editor

A Petrochemical Centennial Approaches

The first plant to make ethylene from ethane started up in January 1920

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief
Aug 7, 2019

The origin of a significant portion of today’s chemical industry traces back more than a century to the pioneering work of an organic chemist at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in Pittsburgh, Pa. In the early 1910s, George Oliver Curme, Jr., and coworkers developed a method to produce hydrocarbon gases by subjecting a petroleum fraction, gas oil, to a submerged high-frequency electric arc. Their process promised a source of acetylene cost-competitive with that from calcium carbide. The route also yielded ethylene.

Read More