Furfural Production

Furfural is a platform chemical with a growing market. It is also one of the oldest bio-renewable chemical. In a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy [1], from a list of over 300 possible chemicals from biomass sugars, furfural was named as one of the top 30. These were selected on the basis […]
GreenEnergyPark™: Furfural Plant (Image: DalinYebo)

GreenEnergyPark™: Furfural Plant (Image: DalinYebo)

Furfural is a platform chemical with a growing market. It is also one of the oldest bio-renewable chemical.

In a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy [1], from a list of over 300 possible chemicals from biomass sugars, furfural was named as one of the top 30. These were selected on the basis of a combination of factors including relative cost of manufacture, value of final product and the ability to be used as a building block for other valuable chemicals. In furfural, these attributes have been known for many years.

Furfural was first isolated in 1832 by the German chemist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner, who formed a very small quantity of it as a by-product of formic acid synthesis. At the time, formic acid was formed by the distillation of dead ants, and Döbereiner’s ant bodies probably contained some plant matter. In 1840, the Scottish chemist John Stenhouse found that the same chemical could be produced by distilling a wide variety of crop materials, including corn, oats, bran, and sawdust, with aqueous sulphuric acid. He determined that this chemical had an empirical formula of C4H3OCHO. In 1901, the German chemist Carl Harries deduced furfural’s structure. In 1922, the Quaker Oates factory at Cedar Rapids commenced the commercial production of Furfural.

1st Furfural Plant (Quaker Chemicals, Cedar Rapids)

1st Furfural Plant (Quaker Chemicals, Cedar Rapids)

The commonly used manufacturing technologies have not changed much since then. DalinYebo has selected technology that is energy efficiencies and has low (water and airborne) emission, resulting in excess residue. This lignocellulosic residue is or can be used for co-generation of electricity, cattle feed, activated carbon, mulch/fertiliser, etc.. It also has been used as a glue extender in the North American board industry and is a very good feedstock for cellulosic ethanol.

Batch digesters in a Chinese Furfural Plant (Photo: DalinYebo)

Batch digesters in a Chinese Furfural Plant (Photo: DalinYebo)

Related content:

[1] US DOE Report::Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass (Volume I), August 2004, T. Werpy and G. Petersen

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