The global furfural solvent market was estimated at approximately USD 60 million in 2014. Biodegradable solvents,such as those made from furfural, are increasingly being utilized in petroleum refining & butadiene extraction applications, which is a vital determinant for industry growth.
Several end–use industries aregenerating high demand for furfural solvents on account of itsadvantageous productcharacteristicswhich include non-toxicity and low volatile organic compound (VOC) content.
Technological advancements have further revolutionized production processes, creating innovative productsfrom renewable agricultural biomass such as sugarcane bagasse. In conjunction withagro based formulations, these solvents are increasingly beingused to revolutionize fungicides, pesticides, other synthetic compounds and herbicides. These products are alsobeing used to replace environmentally detrimental productstoboostconsumer health and safety.
Other major applications include pharmaceuticals, paints & coatings, metals, textiles and resins owing to versatility, high compatibility, non-toxicity and biodegradable nature. Furfural solventsarealso used with other derivatives such as tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol (THFA), methyltetrahydrofuran (MeTHF), furfuryl alcohol, and tetrahydrofuran (THF) in several industrial applications.
Furfural solvents are subject to several regulations and legislations by regulatory bodies and agencies such as REACH, the European Commission, and U.S. EPAregardingtheirapplicationin agriculture, lubricant refining, and pharmaceuticals.
Limitedavailability of agricultural commodities such as corn is another major factor influencing the production landscapesince the latter is widely used in biofuel production. Raw material supply volatility is thus expected to negatively impact the market over the forecast period.
China is anticipated to dominate the market in terms of production owing to a large consumer base, exponential production capacity and significant expansion of end–use industries. However, developed nations in North America and Europe are also expected to generate high demand owing to a stringent regulatory framework, which is encouraging bio-based and renewable chemical applications.
Key application segments include agricultural formulations, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals and paints &coatings. Petroleum refining capturedthe highest market share among all applications, owing to heavy usagein butadiene extraction and lubricating oils.The segment accounted for over half of the global volume in 2014.
Factors fueling product demand in the medical industry includeincreasing usage of bio-based solvents in various medicinal intermediates, drug formulations and even for cleaning medical devices & equipment.
Pharmaceuticals arethus expected to register higher growth rate compared to the applications over the forecast period. Other niche segments are also likely to generate high demand owing to the unique chemical and physical properties of these solvents.
Agricultural formulations captured a relatively smaller volume share compared to other applications, with its demand estimated at over seven kilo tons in 2014. Due to its non-toxic nature, it is gaining prominence in herbicides as an adjuvant. This factor shall contribute towards the segment growth.
China emerged as the market leader in 2014, accounting for approximately 65% of the overall volume. Expanding paints & coatings, petrochemicals, and pharmaceutical industries are expected to drive regional market growth. China accounts for nearly 85% of the consumption in Asia Pacific and is defined by presence of numerous domestic manufacturers of small scale.
Western Europe and North America collectively accounted for nearly two tenth of the overall volume in 2014, owing to high solvent demand in petroleum refining, agricultural formulations, and pharmaceuticals. However, stringent environmental norms inthese regions are expected to hinder the market growth.
Exponential growth in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and related end-use industries isexpected to fuel market growth in India and SoutheastAsia. Rest of Asia Pacific is expected to grow in the lines of Chinese market. Though niche in nature, the industry in India is witnessing significant gains in terms of consumption, particularly in agricultural formulations and pharmaceuticals.
Key companies operating in the industry include Harborchem (Illovo Sugar Ltd.), Transfurans Chemicals, Penn Specialty Chemicals, Linzi Organic Chemical Inc., Teijing North Furfural Co., and Alchem Chemical Co., Goodrich Sugar & Chemical Ltd., BASF, Xing Tai Chunlei Furfural Alcohol Ltd., Furfural Espanol S.A. and The Good Scents Co.
The industry is characterized by technological innovations of existing processes to improve yield. Process improvisation, competitive pricing, mergers & acquisitions, and value chain integration are crucial determinants for industry competitiveness.
Research Support Specialist, USA