chapter
Phenol
WithG Margaret Wells
Pages 6

Phenol was isolated from coal tar over a hundred years ago, but the first commercial process was the sulphonation of benzene and subsequent fusion with caustic soda. The demand for phenol rose rapidly with the discovery that trinitrophenol was a powerful explosive for military use. Cumene is the dominant raw material for phenol manufacture, accounting for over 90% of the world’s capacity. In the peroxidation process, phenol is obtained by the decomposition of eumene hydroperoxide, derived from eumene, which in turn is produced from benzene and propylene. Phenol is recovered from the overhead water streams from the first and phenol distillation columns by distillation. Nearly 18% of phenol is used for the textile intermediates, caprolactam and adipic acid. The fine chemical industry consumes some 12% of phenol in the manufacture of chlorinated phenols for wood preservatives and herbicides, diphenols, salicylic acid and nitrophenols.