Ethylbenzene [ěth’el’běn’zēn’] is a clear, flammable liquid with an odor that is similar to gasoline.
Ethylbenzene is commercially produced from benzene and ethylene in industrial plants, and a minor amount is isolated by purifying petroleum by-product streams. It is also present naturally in crude oil, some natural gas streams, and coal tar.
Over 98% of synthetic ethylbenzene is used as a raw material in the manufacture of styrene monomer. Minor ethylbenzene applications also include the production of chemicals other than styrene or as a solvent, as well as some agricultural and home insecticide sprays, dyes, household degreasers, rubber adhesives, and rust preventives.
Naturally-occurring ethylbenzene is a component of automotive, diesel, and aviation fuels (up to about 5% ethylbenzene). In addition, ethylbenzene is present in crude petroleum streams and is a major component of mixed xylenes (15–20% ethylbenzene), which are used as a solvent for some spray paints, coatings, wood stains and varnishes, paint removers and thinners, as well as agricultural and home insecticide sprays, dyes, rubber adhesives, rust preventatives, and household and automotive cleaners.