Ethane is used in the production of ethylene for making plastics, anti-freeze and detergents; it's a ripening agent for foods, a refrigerant, a substance in producing welding gas and a primary ingredient in mustard gas. Ethane is a component in the natural gas methane and is removed by cryogenic liquefaction.
Ethane is one of the primary alkanes, along with propane, butane and methane. Alkanes are carbon and hydrogen-based chemical compounds whose carbon atoms only have a single bond. Before the 1960s, ethane was not separated from methane for use as feedstock in petrochemical processes, though its presence was discovered in 1834 by Michael Faraday.