Furfural is a highly valuable chemical compound. It is colorless, motile, and clear liquid that has a distinct almond benzaldehyde odor. It is also commonly called as furfurol, fural, 2-furfuraldehyde, 2-furanaldehyde, furaldehyde, and 2-furancarboxaldehyde. The molecular formula for furfural is C5H4O2. It is generally produced from the agricultural biomass that has pentosans. Pentosans are aldose sugars that are composed of small rings formed from five-member short chains. These aldose sugar rings constitute a segment of complex carbohydrates. The raw materials used for the production of furfural are typically derived from woody plants such as oat hulls, rice, sugarcane bagasse, and corn cobs among others. It is one of the key platform chemicals, which can be used as a starting reagent for manufacturing different other high valued products. These products can be manufactured from variety of lignocellulosic residues including the ones derived from agricultural activities.
Furfural is also used as a solvent in refining of variety of operations and processes such as butadiene extraction, lubrication oils, and others. It is also used for chemical extraction processes of several types. It is projected that that the demand for the global market will also be influenced by the flourishing construction industry. The demand will be high due to use of furfural in several refractory materials such as ceramics, bricks, fiberglass, and composites among others. In addition to this, constant depletion of fossil fuels is driving the demand for sustainable products, which in turn is expected to drive the overall growth of the global furfural market.
The overall competitive landscape of the global furfural market shows high levels of fragmentation. This fragmentation of the vendor landscape is due to the growing number of notable players in the global market. The companies in the market are expected to concentrate on developing innovative products in order to cater to the growing demand for furfurals.
Furfural Market – Snapshot
Furfural is a valuable chemical compound. It is a clear, colorless motile liquid having a characteristic almond-benzaldehyde odor. Furfural is also known as 2-furancarboxaldehyde, furaldehyde, 2-furanaldehyde, 2-furfuraldehyde, fural, and furfurol. Its molecular formula is C5H4O2. Furfural is produced from agricultural waste biomass that contains pentosans, which are aldose sugars composed of small rings formed from short, five-member chains. These aldose sugars constitute a class of complex carbohydrates. Raw materials used in the manufacture of furfural are obtained from woody plants; for example, corn cobs, sugarcane bagasse, and rice and oat hulls. Furfural is one of the platform chemicals that can be used as a starting reagent to produce other high-value-added products and that can be produced from different lignocellulosic residues including those obtained from agricultural activities.
Furfural is used as a solvent in refining of lubrication oils, extraction of butadiene, and chemical extraction processes of different types. Demand for furfural for the use in binding refractory materials and resin-bonded grinding wheels is high due to its excellent physical properties. Rapid growth of the construction industry is expected to augment the demand for furfural for the use in various refractory materials such as fiberglass composites, bricks, and ceramics in the near future. Depletion of fossil fuel resources is driving the demand for sustainable products. This, in turn, is boosting the demand for furfural worldwide.
Furfural is produced by using processes such as Quaker batch process, Chinese batch process, and Rosenlew continuous process. Feedstock is mixed with sulfuric acid, after which it is reacted in a rotating spherical at 153°C, while being sparged with superheated steam in the Quaker batch process. Furfural formed by using this process is separated by passing steam through the bed. The process continues for a few hours, after which it is stopped and the residue is let down from the digester. Steam and furfural vapors extracted from the digester are then condensed and separated with the help of decanting and distillation. The digesters in the Chinese process do not rotate. They consist of large cylinders in which steam, at 5 bars pressure, is passed through a static bed 1.5 m diameter and 8 m tall. In this process, the size of the corn cobs is between 20 to 30 mm.
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In terms of application, the furfural market has been segmented into furfuryl alcohol, solvents, pharmaceuticals, chemical intermediates, and others. The furfuryl alcohol segment accounts for a dominant share of the furfural market. Furfuryl alcohol is used in the production of furan resins, surface coatings, mortar, specialty polymers, chemically resistant resins, and adhesives used in foundry cores and molds. Currently, furfuryl alcohol is used primarily in binders for traditional furan no-bake systems. It is employed in furan hot-box, warm-box, and gas-hardened processes in less quantity. The chemical intermediates segment accounts for a significant share of the furfural market. Furfural is used to manufacture tetrahydrofuran (THF), which is precursor for a wide range of chemical syntheses. Furfural is a raw material used for polytetramethylene ether glycol (PTMEG). The others segment includes pesticides, herbicides, and flavoring agents. Furfural is used in the manufacture of the 5-methyl furfural, which is a high-value flavor compound.
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Based on region, the global furfural market has been divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. In terms of both revenue and volume, Asia Pacific dominated the global furfural market in 2017. Low manufacturing costs, increase in disposable incomes, and availability of raw materials in Asia Pacific drive the market in the region. China holds a major share of the market in Asia Pacific owing to growth in the metal casting industry in the country. China is a key exporter of furfural. It exports the chemical compound to the U.S. and countries such as Japan, Belgium, Singapore, and South Korea. Europe accounted for a large share of the furfural market in 2017. The market in the region is likely to expand at a sluggish pace in the next few years primarily due to slow economic growth. Demand for furfural in North America and Middle East & Africa expanded at a moderate pace in last few years. The trend is expected to continue in the near future. The furfural market in Latin America is likely to expand at a sluggish pace during the forecast period due to less demand from various end-user industries.
Key players operating in the global furfural market are focusing on capacity expansion and mergers. This, in turn, is likely to propel the market during the forecast period. Key manufacturers operating in the furfural market include Central Romana Corporation, Ltd., Hongye Holding Corporation Ltd., Illovo Sugar Ltd., Lenzing AG, Penn A Kem LLC, Silvateam S.p.A., Tanin Senvica d.d., Aurus Specialty Company, Henan Huilong Chemical Co., Ltd., Shandong Crownchem Industries Co., Ltd., and Tieling North Furfural (Group) Co., Ltd.
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