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Why are fine chemicals important?

Why are fine chemicals important?


What are they?

Fine chemicals are chemical substances prepared to a very high degree of purity. They can be used in research and industry. The extraction of raw materials from plants is done in numerous steps. Firstly the plant is crushed in order to break open the plant material. It is then boiled and dissolved in a suitable solvent. Finally, chromatography takes place in order to separate the different chemicals in the plant. Aside from plant extraction, fine chemicals can also be extracted synthetically. Visit our other blog ‘Syntor Fine Chemicals – What are Fine Chemicals?’ for further information on fine chemicals.


Uses of fine chemicals


Pharmaceutical drugs

Pharmaceutical drugs are used to diagnose, cure and treat illnesses. They are also used to prevent diseases. One of the reasons why fine chemicals are important is the role that they play in the production of pharmaceutical drugs. For example, Hydrogen is a raw material which is commonly used in pharmaceuticals.



Fine chemicals such as acid chlorides are also important in the food industry because they can be used as preservatives in human and animal foods. An example of an acid chloride which is used in preservatives is Propanoic acid, which is a clear liquid notable for its unpleasant smell. Food products such as vinegar also contain acid chlorides in the ingredients. Ethanoic acid is a liquid form of acid chlorides and is the main component that makes up vinegar. Butaonic acids are found in some dairy products such as butter and milk.



Agrochemicals are used specifically to enhance agricultural benefits by protecting crops from pests and increasing crop yields. For example, fine chemicals are used in pesticides which make them very important for the agricultural industry.


The future of fine chemicals

Due to the lower labour costs in Asia compared to Europe, there is going to be an increasing shift towards chemicals being outsourced to Asia. The demand for pharmaceutical drugs, food products and agrochemicals will continue therefore so will the production of fine chemicals. Fine chemicals are also important because they are used in every-day products such as photographic film, wood glue and household cleaning products. If you would like to find out any further information about fine chemicals, or what role we play in the production of fine chemicals, then contact us via our website.

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Membrane technology in the fine chemicals industry

Membrane technology

Membrane technology in the fine chemicals industry

The fine chemicals industry is responsible for the production of pigments, dyes, coatings, flavouring and fragrances, things that we use constantly in our everyday lives. Fine chemicals are produced in small quantities, but they have a wide range of purposes and uses, so are often difficult to define. The chemical industry as a whole represents the largest sector of the membranes market, with fine chemicals taking up around a quarter of this sector. Membrane technology is very important in the fine chemicals industry – it’s used for the production of process water, filtration of the fine chemicals themselves and treatment of effluent.

Process waters are an important part of the production process for fine chemicals. The types of process water used in the fine chemicals industry can vary considerably, mainly because there’s such a huge range of fine chemicals that can be produced. Process waters have a lot of different specifications that have to be followed for different fine chemicals, such as microbe content, silica levels and carbon levels. Membrane technology has an important role to play in producing these process waters – membranes are often used for pre-treatment, sometimes for processes like reverse osmosis.

Membrane technology is also used for direct filtration in the fine chemicals industry. The membranes can be used to separate the fine chemicals and ensure their purity. These chemicals are purified in medium-sized facilities, in which membranes remove contaminants from the fine chemical products, ready for use. Some facilities prefer the use of filters instead of membranes, as they are more suitable in certain situations.

The fine chemicals industry also carries out treatment of effluent. The production of fine chemicals often produces a lot of waste, which is then treated using membrane technology. This is probably the most extensive application of membrane technology in the whole industry. First, effluent is fed into a bioreactor tank where microbes can respire, producing organics. Conditions within the bioreactor are constantly monitored, and some of the waste is removed periodically to keep concentration levels at the optimum. Membranes are used to separate larger molecules from smaller particles, to produce effluent that is free from any bacteria or solids.

Membrane technology is important in the fine chemicals industry, for many different processes. It helps to produce process water which then dilutes agrochemicals, for filtration and separation of fine chemicals to purify them for use, and for the treatment of effluent to remove bacteria and solids from the waste products. Membrane technology is useful and diverse, and plays an important role in the production of fine chemicals.

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The history of petrochemicals


The history of petrochemicals

Petrochemicals are chemicals products that are produced from petroleum. These chemicals can be split into the two most common classes – olefins, which include ethylene and propylene, and aromatics, which include benzene and toluene. Both classes are produced in oil refineries across the UK by fluid catalytic cracking – olefins can also be produced in chemicals plants by steam cracking, and aromatics are produced by catalytic reforming of naphtha. Both classic of chemicals provide the building blocks for many materials such as solvents, detergents, adhesives, plastics and lubricants materials, and so are extremely useful in day to day life.

These petrochemicals are predominantly produced in a few manufacturing locations are the world. The most prominent producers of petrochemicals include Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia, Texas and Louisiana in the USA, Teeside in the UK, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Jamnagar and Dahej in India. The abundance of locations prove that petrochemicals are not only a huge portions of the global chemical industry but, at least for now, are here to stay.

The earliest usage of petrochemicals can actually be dates back to ancient Egypt. The substances that we know as ethylene and polyethylene were produced by ancient Egyptians by using gas and fig plants. Also, bitumen was found as one of the materials used in building the pyramids and in the embalming process that was so popular at the time. These three chemicals can all be derived from petroleum today.

The first chemicals to be made from petroleum, however, were produced in 1872. Carbon black was produced by the partial combustion of natural gas, and was used in the production of synthetic rubber. Fast forward around 50 years and the petrochemical industry was born, when the Standard Oil Company plant was opened in New Jersey, USA which produced propylene. Nowadays, petrochemicals represent the majority of all chemicals that are shipped between continents and accounts for around 40% of the global chemicals market. About 5% of the world’s annual oil supply is utilised to make petrochemicals, so it’s clear that they’re a huge part of today’s chemical industry. To say the petrochemicals industry has come on leaps and bounds since its conception is a huge understatement. From traces of ethylene and bitumen found in Egypt to today’s abundance of different products and uses, the petrochemical industry has come a long way, and will most likely continue to develop and adapt as renewable resources begin to compete.

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Everything you need to know about toll manufacturing

toll manufacturing

Everything you need to know about toll manufacturing


Toll manufacturing can be simply defined as an arrangement, where a company with specialised equipment processes raw materials or unfinished goods for a different company. If you haven’t heard of this before, you might have come across toll processing, which is the exact same thing, only a different name. It’s also important to note that, although contract manufacturing has some similarities to toll manufacturing, they are different things. In contract manufacturing, the manufacturing company also provides the materials, whereas in toll manufacturing, that’s the customers job. There are a few things you’ll need to know about this process before you agree to an arrangement.


1. It’s an on-demand service


In a strange and unprecedented way, toll manufacturing is actually akin to other on-demand services like Netflix. This manufacturing allows companies to offer their services on-demand and at all times, as part of an arrangement that is beneficial for both the customer and the manufacturer. It’s a great way to build up contacts, too – if you’re start up company, and have some raw materials or unfinished products that require specific machinery, then entering into a toll manufacturing arrangement can both help you finish those products and build a relationship with another company.


2. It’s cost-effective


Toll manufacturing is very cost-effective for customers. It allows them to keep the cost at just manufacturing, without having to factor in equipment costs, facility costs and employee salaries. The customer is equipped with everything it needs to manufacture, without having to pay anywhere near what they would if the equipment was theirs. If you don’t want to bankrupt yourself by paying for extra equipment, toll manufacturing could help you out. It’s a win-win situation, as the manufacturing company receives this payment and can put this towards anything they like.


3. It’s a time saver


Toll manufacturing agreements can save your company a lot of time. Getting your product on the market can be a lengthy process, especially if you’re trying to acquire the equipment and extra employees required to do so. Time for ordering and installing new machinery is taken care of, as the machinery you need is already set up and waiting at another company. Toll manufacturing can help you to get your products on the market as quick as possible, which may be especially helpful if products are in high demand and out of stock.

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The best uses for different raw materials

different raw materials

The best uses for different raw materials

At Syntor, we provide a range of different services to support custom manufacturing projects. There are many different reaction tropes that we are capable of carrying out at our multi-purpose facilities. We have a wide range of experience which allows us to handle hazardous materials safely, and carry out even challenging processes to the highest quality. Some of the different raw materials that we use have many different functions.


1. Sodium

Sodium makes up many different compounds that you probably use in everyday life. Table salt, baking soda and borax are just three examples. Sodium is a different raw material that is used in the production of many other useful materials such as titanium, sodamide and sodium peroxide. Also, sodium vapor is used in streetlights as it produces a bright yellow light. Due to its high reactivity, sodium is hardly ever found alone in nature and must be handled with great care – here at Syntor, we take every precaution when handling reactive materials.


2. Hydrogen

Another one of the many different raw materials we use is hydrogen. Hydrogen can be used alone as an eco-friendly fuel, but is more popularly used to make ammonia for fertilizer. It is also involved in the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals, and can be utilized to remove sulfur from fuels during the oil-refining process. Due to it’s low density, it might even be inside those balloons you received on your birthday!


3. Magnesium

Another different raw material that we use here at Syntor is magnesium. It is popularly used to produce an alloy when paired with aluminum, as it improves the welding characteristics of the metal. It is added to molten iron and steel to remove sulfur, and is used to produce milk of magnesia, Epsom salts, chloride and citrate, all of which are used in medicine. In the chemical industry, grignard reactants are incredibly important, which are organic magnesium compounds.


4. Ammonia

Ammonia is an important raw material, and is probably one that you’ve already heard of from your GCSE science days! This different raw material is used in the production of fertilizers and certain cleaning fluids. It is also used in the manufacture of plastics, explosives, textiles, pesticides and dyes. It’s also a vital step in order for plants to be able to use nitrogen compounds. Ammonia is used in many different industries, for refrigeration and stabilization of different materials such as latex.


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What are intermediates and what do they do?

What are intermediates

What are intermediates and what do they do?


An intermediate is a molecule that is formed from two or more reactants and then reacts further to give products. Most chemical reactions require more than one step, and an intermediate is the product of each step, except for the last one, after which the final products are produced. Intermediates very rarely remain in the product mixture due to the short time that they exist. They are seldom isolated, and so usually end up reacting with other chemicals in the reaction to eventually produce the final products. An example of a chemical reaction would be A+B = C+D. In reality, the reaction is more likely to be something like this; A+B = X*, X* = C+D, in which X* is the intermediate. There can be a high number of intermediates in every reaction, and they’re sometimes difficult to identify due to how short-lived they are.


Intermediates are distinguishable from molecular vibrations, which are merely transitions, though they have similar lifetimes. Intermediates are short-lived and highly reactive, which is why they are usually in very low quantities in reaction mixtures. Of course, when describing intermediates, we need to take into account the reaction in which they are present. A short-lived species in one reaction might actually be considered stable in another. Intermediates are relatively short-lived compare to the other chemicals in the reactions. They often come in the forms of free radicals or unstable ions and sometimes must be produced at a very high temperature or pressure due to their high reactivity. In certain reactions, multiple steps are performed in one batch. Sometimes, it is unnecessary to isolate an intermediate for further reactions – other times, it’s impossible due to their high reactivity with other chemicals in the reaction mixture. It’s hard to isolate intermediates when their lifespan is so comparatively short. An example is the esterification of a diol, where a monoester is first produced, which then reacts to from a dioester.


An example of an intermediate in the chemical industry is cumene. The term intermediate in the chemical industry usually means a product of a reaction that is only beneficial when used as a precursor chemical for another industry. Cumene is made from benzene and propylene, and is then used to produce acetone. Cumene, without additional reactions, has very little value and no real use, which makes it an intermediate instead of a useful chemical product.

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Bulk Chemicals vs Fine Chemicals

bulk chemicals in storage

Bulk Chemicals VS Fine Chemicals


The chemical industry can be simplified into two main parts – fine chemicals, which are pure and complex, and bulk chemicals, which are made in huge quantities. Fine chemicals provide the means for things like drugs, fragrances, and additives in food. Some examples of bulk chemicals are ammonia, sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide, which are all made at large chemical plants via a variety of different processes. There are significant differences between the two front runners of the chemical industry.


Bulk chemicals


These are chemicals that are made on a very large scale in order to satisfy global markets – which is why they are sometimes referred to as commodity chemicals. Organic chemicals are produced by organic synthesis, which has many different steps and processes involved. Both inorganic and organic bulk chemicals are manufactured in continuous process chemicals plants as opposed to batch manufacturing chemical plants (which is how fine chemicals are produced). In the UK specifically, there are 4 main chemical plants that produced most of the country’s bulk chemicals – near the River Mersey, on the East coast of Yorkshire, in Grangemouth and in Teesside. The basic manufacturing goal of bulk chemical plants is to produce bulk chemicals on a large enough scale that costs are kept as low as possible, to make the maximum amount of profit. Some notable examples of these chemicals acetone, acrylic acid, biodiesel, castor oil, glycerine, and white spirit.


Fine chemicals


Fine chemicals, as opposed to bulk chemicals, can only be manufactured in small, limited quantities in plants by batch or biotechnological manufacturing processes. There are, however, many small and complicated steps in the making of fine chemicals – like chemical synthesis, biotechnology, extraction, and hydrolysis. These chemicals were conceived in the 1970s, and have since become an important part of the chemical industry in the UK. The products, while extremely useful, usually have to be combined with other chemicals and substances in order to reach their full potential. Generally, they provide the building blocks for many different products that no doubt you use every single day. Some examples of these include pharmaceuticals, biocides, fragrances, additives, and pigments. Fine chemicals, to sum up, have to be combined with other substances to create these products. They are much more expensive to produce than bulk chemicals, due to their complex and changing the chemistry. Both bulk chemicals and fine chemicals are vital to the chemical industry, and provide us with everyday items and products that we don’t necessarily notice, but would definitely miss.

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storing chemicals safely


Storing Chemicals Safely

Knowing the correct practices in storing chemicals safely will help to avoid potentially dangerous or even fatal incidents in the laboratory or workplace. Chemicals, especially those that are hazardous when in contact with skin or eyes, or when paired with another chemical, should be labelled clearly, kept in small quantities and only stored with compatible chemicals that offer low risk of any reaction.


Labelling is an crucial aspect of storing chemicals safely – all chemicals must be labelled clearly with both the name and chemical symbol, and any hazard warnings that apply (for example – corrosive, flammable, toxic, etc).


It is essential when storing chemicals safely that their compatibility with one another is considered. A chemical may be completely stable alone, or when paired with a compatible chemical – however, it may react with a different chemical and cause a danger to those around it.


Keeping chemicals in large quantities is unadvisable. Should an accident occur, there should be limited amounts of hazardous material that could harm workers or lab occupants – if there is a large quantity, there is a higher risk of injury.

Stock control

Keeping a close eye on your stock is essential. Storing chemicals safely involves disposing of time sensitive chemicals that expire, and disposing of surplus or unwanted stock that is simply taking up too much space. Keeping an up to date record of the stock will ensure that, should an accident occur, you have adequate knowledge on how to handle it.


Storing chemicals safely can come down to the container in which they are kept. Breakable containers should be avoided where possible – if their use is unavoidable, then they should be stored on a low shelf, below shoulder height. Storing plastic containers above shoulder height is fine, as long as there is sufficient access without threatening the integrity of the rest of the chemicals nearby.


Shelving should be kept as low down as possible, so that workers do not need to use benches or lab chairs in order to reach chemicals. Doing so can increase the risk of falling, and potential damage to containers. Chemicals which are used less frequently should be kept on higher/more inconvenient to reach shelves.


In order to store chemicals as safely as possible, clutter should be kept to a minimum. Not only does this allow for easier retrieval or locating of chemicals, it avoids any confusion in the workplace. Keeping mess to a minimum will also decrease the risk of trips.


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production of fine chemicals

 production of fine chemicals


Technologies involved in the production of fine chemicals

Fine chemicals are rapidly becoming one of the front runners of the chemical industry in the UK – however, production can be difficult, as they can only be produced in limited quantities by multiple different steps, in batches. The production of fine chemicals involves a number of different technologies – the global production value of fine chemicals is close to $85 billion. Fine chemicals are single, pure chemicals substances which are produced in multi-purpose plants. They are produced in low quantities but have a relatively high cost. They are sold on specifications and have very specific applications.


Chemical synthesis

Chemical synthesis can either take place from petrochemical starting chemicals or natural product extracts. Petrochemicals are chemicals products derived from petroleum or obtained from fossil fuels such as coal. Some well-known examples of petrochemicals include ethylene, benzene and propylene. Natural product extracts can include a wide range of different products, usually found in plants.



Biotechnology is a prominent technology in the production of fine chemicals. Fine chemical production involves three different areas of biotechnology – biocatalysis, biosynthesis and cell culture technology. Biocatalysis involves natural catalysts performing a chemical transformation on specifically organic compounds. Biosynthesis is a complex process in which substrates are converted into more complex products.



During the production of fine chemicals, extraction of different products from animals or plants may be required. Isolation and purification will take place during this, usually for extraction of alkaloids, antibacterials and steroids. Natural products from organisms provide many fine chemical extracts needed for applications in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries. Animal and plant by-products are a rich source of such materials, such as proteins, hormones and polysaccharides.



Hydrolysis of proteins takes place during the production of fine chemicals, in which proteins are broken down into their constituent amino acids. This is a fairly simple process, involving heat being applied to the protein with the presence of a catalyst for a long period of time. The reaction isolates the amino acids for use in the production of fine chemicals.


Despite these technologies being very important, mastering them does not give any specific competitive advantage. The production of fine chemicals can be carried out in multipurpose plants. Reaction-specific equipment, however, is readily available on the market, so utilising these technologies is not difficult, and could possibly save you some time overall. The installation of such equipment is relatively simple too.  



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Our featured products and their uses


Some featured products and their uses


Tyramine Hydrochloride


– Tyramine its self is contained in many types of meat which have been aged, pickled, fermented, smoked or marinated. Tyramine is a naturally occurring trace amine derived from the amino acid tyrosine. Tyramine acts as a catecholamine releasing agent. It is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, therefore, resulting in only non-psychoactive peripheral sympathomimetic effects following ingestion. A hypertensive crisis can result, however, from ingestion of tyramine-rich foods in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors. The appearance of this chemical is pale white to pale pink crystalline powder.




– Phenothiazine is an organic compound that has the formula S(C6H4)2NH and is related to the thiazine-class of heterocyclic compounds. It is used in chemical manufacturing as a stabiliser or inhibitor. It was used in the mid-20th century as an insecticide and anthelminthic for livestock and humans but was superseded by other compounds. The earliest derivative, methylene blue, was one of the first antimalarial drugs, and as of 2015 derivatives are under investigation as possible anti-infective drugs. It is a prototypical pharmaceutical lead structure in modern medicinal chemistry.




– is an off-white to pale brown crystalline solid with a melting point of 38-45 degrees. It is prepped by the oxidation of dichlorohydrin with sodium dichromate. The health hazards and risks for this chemical are that it is flammable – 2nd degree and reactive – 1st degree. It may also be fatal if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Contact may cause burns to skin and eyes. A fire may produce irritating or poisonous gases.  When heated to decomposition, it emits highly toxic fumes of chlorides. This material may burn but does not ignite readily.


Boron Trichloride


– Dimethyloctylamine Complex – this compounds formula is C10H23BCl3N and has a melting point of 25-28 degrees Celsius. Its appearance is colourless, light yellow or brown crystalline solid. This chemical is one of the numerous organo-metallic compounds for uses requiring non-aqueous solubilities such as recent solar energy and water treatment applications. Similar results can sometimes also be achieved with nanoparticles and by thin film deposition. Boron is a chemical element with symbol B and atomic number 5. It is a low-abundance element in the solar system and in the earth’s crust. Boron is concentrated on earth by the water solubility of its more common naturally occurring compounds, the borate minerals. The largest known boron deposits are in turkey, the largest producer of boron materials.


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