XYLENE

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A xylene (from Greek ξύλο, xylo, “wood”) is an aromatic hydrocarbon consisting of a benzene ring with two methyl substituents. The three isomeric xylenes each have a molecular formula of C8H10, though the more informative semi-structural formula C6H4(CH3)2 is also used commonly. The xylenes are major petrochemicals, produced by catalytic reforming and also by coal carbonisation in the manufacture of coke fuel. Representing about 0.5–1% of crude oil (depending on the source), xylenes are found in small quantities in gasoline and airplane fuels. Xylenes are mainly produced as part of the BTX aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylenes) extracted from the product of catalytic reforming known as “reformate”. The mixture is a slightly greasy, colourless liquid commonly encountered as a solvent. It was named in 1851, having been discovered as a constituent of wood tar. Several million tons are produced annually. In 2011, a global consortium began construction of one of the world’s largest xylene plants in Singapore.

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