Market Situation

Olefins are in a class of hydrocarbons with a single double bond and a chemical formula of CnH2n. The two most important olefins are ethylene and propylene, as they form the backbone of the petrochemicals market. The highly reactive double bond makes the olefin molecule ideal for conversion to many useful end products. The majority of olefins capacity is consumed in the production of polymers used for plastics (i.e. polyethylene and polypropylene). Ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, oxo alcohol, polystyrene, and acrylonitrile are other important olefins-based petrochemicals.

Worldwide olefins demand is primarily driven by economic growth and the associated increased demand for consumer goods.

Today, the majority of ethylene is produced by thermal cracking of hydrocarbon feedstocks ranging from ethane to heavy vacuum gas oils. Over 60% of the world's propylene is produced as a byproduct of thermal cracking, with the balance being supplied from refinery sources and others. The amount of propylene produced from thermal cracking is highly feedstock dependent. With future propylene demand expected to outpace ethylene demand and continued growth in Middle East thermal crackers utilizing cost advantaged ethane feedstock, "on purpose" propylene production via catalytic cracking technologies will become more important.

Olefins economics are driven by petrochemicals prices, product yields, and consumer demand. KBR's suite of olefins production technologies coupled with our experienced group of olefins technology specialists provides our clients the selectivity to valuable olefins for a given feedstock that are produced in reliable, safe, environmentally sound, and cost effective plant designs.

Commercial Applications

As an ethylene and propylene licensor, KBR has been a leader in olefin plant design and construction and technology development for over 50 years. We provide cost-effective plants for the production of ethylene, propylene, butadiene and other by products from feedstocks ranging from ethane to vacuum gas oils. Since 1990, over 20 new ethylene plants with a combined capacity of 13 million metric tons per year have been brought on-stream using KBR technology.

KBR's Olefins Technology portfolio currently contains two technology options for Olefins production, with the optimum selection dependent on available feedstocks and desired olefin product mix.

  • SCORE (Selective Cracking Optimum Recovery)
  • K-COT™ (KBR Catalytic Olefins Technology)

Values and Benefits


KBR's extensive olefins experience, combined with an exclusive license agreement to utilize ExxonMobil Chemicals ethylene technology developments, is the basis for our olefins plant designs under the trademark SCORE™, Selective Cracking Optimum REcovery. SCORE technology uses cracking furnaces that can provide the highest olefins yields available in the industry and a low-capital, high-efficiency product recovery system based on low-pressure distillation tower designs.


KBR Catalytic Olefins Technology (K-COT™) is a commercially proven technology for converting straight run naphtha, coal naphtha or low-value olefinic, paraffinic or mixed streams into high value light olefins. KBR combines Orthoflow™ fluidized catalytic cracking reactor system with proprietary catalyst to selectively produce large quantities of FCC propylene and ethylene.

For more information on SCORE™ and K-COT™, please visit our KBR Petrochemicals publications.