Furfural is an organic compound derived from plant materials such as corncobs, oat, wheat bran, rice husk, bagasse, and saw dust. It is usually produced from agricultural wastes rich in pentosans that are hydroysed to produce furfural and its byproducts. Furfural is a colorless oil that readily dissolves in various organic solvents and is slightly soluble in water. It exhibits chemically similar properties as that of other aldehydes and aromatic compounds. It can be readily hydrogenated to tetrahydrofurans derivatives, which when are heated with acids results into solidified polymer or thermosetting polymer. Hence, it is commercially considered as a renewable, non-petroleum based chemical feedstock. Due to these properties, it is widely used in application industries such as petroleum, agriculture, paints & coatings, and pharmaceuticals. Increasing environmental concerns of fossil resources has led to rise in production of renewable alternatives as suitable biomass-based platform chemicals. The U.S. Department of Energy has also selected furfural as one of the top 30 platform chemicals derived from biomass. Furfural production was pioneered in 1921 by the Quaker Oats Company using oat hulls, corncobs, and bagasse. In 2014, around 300 to 700 kilotons of furfural was produced worldwide, of which China contributed a major share. Significant improvements in the production methods of furfural and its increasing incorporation in a wide range of applications have resulted into furfural emerging as a widely used biomass-based chemical.
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Prevalent Scenario in Furfural Market
Increasing inclination of the populace towards renewable energy to replace fossil resources is a major factor driving growth of the furfural market. Due to its key attributes of thermosetting properties, physical strength, and corrosion resistance, furfural has emerged as an immediate alternative to furan-based chemicals. Also, it is derived from abundantly available biomass, which makes it a highly preferred biomass-based chemical. Furfural is mainly used to produce furfuryl alcohol, which is widely used in manufacturing polymers, textiles, and construction materials. The raw materials for furfural production are the agricultural wastes which are widely available in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The abundant availability of raw materials and low cost labor available in these countries is another factor driving the furfural market in Asia Pacific. Hence, it is also widely used in production of agricultural formulations such as herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and other synthetic chemical compounds. The rising trend of incorporation of natural or bio-based chemicals into pharmaceutical industry has led the manufacturers to invest in technologies to broaden the furfural application into pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. However, inefficient technology resulting in low yields and complex production process of furfural restrains the growth of the market. However, increasing government initiatives for use of bio-chemicals into different applications create opportunities for the furfural manufacturers to invest into research and development of the furfural products and their applications. For instance, the government of Alberta has taken initiatives to link the consumer facing brands with biochemicals and conventional petrochemical industries, which has resulted in increase in investments in the biochemical sector in Alberta. Various research studies are being conducted for low costs production of furfural, though they are not commercially operational processes. Moreover, changing prices of raw materials pose threat to the growth of the market. Asia-Pacific region dominates the furfural market due to abundantly availability of raw materials and rapidly growing infrastructure industry. Europe records for fastest growth rate due to increasing incorporation of bio-based chemicals in petroleum refineries and pharmaceutical industries in the region.
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The global furfural market is highly fragmented due to the presence of many established and local players across the world. Major players involved in the market include Hongye Holding Group Corporation Ltd., Arcoy Biorefinery Pvt. Ltd., Corporation, Ltd., Central Romana, KRBL Ltd., Illovo Sugar Ltd., Lenzing AG, Penn A Kem LLC, Tanin Sevnica d.d., Linzi Organic Chemicals Inc. Ltd., Tieling North Furfural (Group) Co., Ltd., Silvateam S.p.A., and Xingtai Chunlei Furfuryl Alcohol Co., Ltd.