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Ethane vs. Ethene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 19, 2023
Ethane (C₂H₆) is a saturated hydrocarbon with single bonds, while ethene (C₂H₄), also known as ethylene, is an unsaturated hydrocarbon with a double bond between carbon atoms.

Key Differences

Ethane and ethene are both hydrocarbons, compounds made up of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. Ethane, having the chemical formula C₂H₆, is an alkane. Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons, meaning they only possess single bonds between the carbon atoms. Being saturated ensures that ethane has the maximum possible number of hydrogen atoms for its two carbon atoms.
On the contrary, ethene, with the chemical formula C₂H₄, belongs to the alkene family. Alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons characterized by the presence of at least one double bond between carbon atoms. This double bond results in ethene having two fewer hydrogen atoms compared to ethane, even though they both contain two carbon atoms.
From a usage perspective, ethane is predominantly employed as a feedstock in the production of ethene. This transformation happens through a process called cracking. Ethene, on the other hand, is a critical compound in the petrochemical industry, primarily used for producing polyethylene, a common plastic.
Ethane's single-bonded structure makes it relatively unreactive. Conversely, the double bond in ethene provides an area of higher electron density, making it more reactive than ethane. This reactivity is why ethene readily participates in addition reactions, such as polymerization.
When discussing sources, ethane is commonly extracted from natural gas and is a significant component of many natural gas deposits. Ethene, while it can be directly sourced in minor quantities, is primarily produced industrially from hydrocarbons like ethane through the aforementioned cracking process.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula


Type of Hydrocarbon

Alkane (saturated)
Alkene (unsaturated)


Single bonds only
Contains a double bond


Relatively unreactive
More reactive due to double bond

Primary Usage

Feedstock for producing ethene
Production of plastics like polyethylene

Ethane and Ethene Definitions


A gaseous compound found naturally in Earth's crust.
The extraction of ethane from natural gas is crucial for the petrochemical industry.


A molecule used as a precursor to produce various plastics.
Ethene is crucial in the production of plastic bottles.


An alkane with the chemical formula C₂H₆.
Ethane can be cracked to produce ethene.


An unsaturated hydrocarbon with a carbon-carbon double bond.
Ethene is used in the synthesis of many industrial chemicals.


A saturated hydrocarbon with two carbon atoms.
Ethane is a major component of natural gas.


Also known as ethylene, with the chemical formula C₂H₄.
Ethene, when polymerized, forms polyethylene.


A molecule with only single bonds between its carbon atoms.
Due to its single bonds, ethane is relatively inert.


A compound that undergoes addition reactions easily.
Due to its double bond, ethene can participate in various chemical reactions.


A flammable gas used as a fuel and petrochemical feedstock.
The combustion of ethane releases energy, making it useful as a fuel.


A gaseous alkene critical to the petrochemical industry.
Ethene's reactivity is due to its double bond.


A colorless, odorless gaseous alkane, C2H6, that occurs as a constituent of natural gas and is used as a fuel and a refrigerant.


See ethylene.


The organic chemical compound ethylene. The simplest alkene, a colorless gaseous (at room temperature and pressure) hydrocarbon with the chemical formula C2H4


(organic chemistry) Any alkene derived from ethylene


Ethylene; olefiant gas.


A flammable colorless gaseous alkene; obtained from petroleum and natural gas and used in manufacturing many other chemicals; sometimes used as an anesthetic


Which has a double bond, ethane or ethene?

Ethene has a double bond between its carbon atoms.

Why is ethene more reactive than ethane?

Ethene's double bond provides an area of higher electron density, making it more reactive.

Why is ethene important in the petrochemical industry?

Ethene is a precursor for many chemicals, including common plastics.

What is the primary source of ethane?

Ethane is primarily extracted from natural gas.

Can ethane be converted to ethene?

Yes, ethane can be cracked to produce ethene.

Are both ethane and ethene gases at room temperature?

Yes, both ethane and ethene are gaseous at room temperature.

What type of hydrocarbon is ethane?

Ethane is a saturated hydrocarbon or alkane.

Is ethane's combustion exothermic?

Yes, the combustion of ethane releases energy.

Which is a greenhouse gas, ethane or ethene?

Both can act as greenhouse gases, but ethene has a much shorter atmospheric lifespan.

Are ethane and ethene renewable resources?

While primarily sourced from fossil fuels, they can be produced from renewable resources, albeit less commonly.

Which is more abundant industrially, ethane or ethene?

Ethene is more abundant industrially due to its wide range of applications.

Which has more hydrogen atoms, ethane or ethene?

Ethane has more hydrogen atoms than ethene.

Can ethene form polymers?

Yes, ethene can polymerize to form polyethylene.

Is ethane's presence significant in the atmosphere?

While present, ethane's concentration in the atmosphere is relatively low.

Is ethene the same as ethylene?

Yes, ethene is also known as ethylene.

Is ethene used in making plastics?

Yes, ethene is used to produce plastics like polyethylene.

What type of reactions does ethene commonly undergo?

Ethene commonly undergoes addition reactions.

Can ethene be produced from sources other than ethane?

Yes, ethene can also be produced from ethanol and other hydrocarbons.

Does ethane have any isomers?

No, ethane doesn't have any isomers due to its simple structure.

How is ethane usually stored?

Ethane is typically stored under pressure as a liquid.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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