Also known as: butene, C4=

Butylene is an unsaturated four-carbon olefin, basically butane with one double bond.

In a refinery, butylene is important as a feedstock to the alky unit to make C4 Alkylate, the highest-value alkylate. Butylene is also used to make MTBE and isooctene, which are both high-quality gasoline blendstocks.

Refinery butylene primarily comes from the FCC unit. Small amounts of butylene are also produced by other cracking units, such as the visbreaker, but these are less likely to be separated for use in the alky. Butylene can also be sourced externally from steam crackers, which produce a large amount of butylene when processing light naphtha as a feedstock to make ethylene.

In the absence of an alky unit, the typical disposition of butylene is in LPG blending or fuel gas, both very low-value options.

The Refinery Reference Desk includes content derived from our industry experts as well as from public data sources such as company websites. Nothing herein is intended to serve as investment advice. This material is based on information that we believe to be reliable and adequately comprehensive, but we do not represent that such information is in all respects accurate or complete. McKinsey Energy Insights does not accept any liability for any losses resulting from use of the content.

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