The global biphenyl industry is gaining traction and it is expected to grow substantially over the next few years. Current trends in the industry are being driven by the ongoing developments in the chemical sector. The need to enhance crop yield in order to meet the ever-increasing global food demand is likely to boost the consumption of biphenyl, which finds wide application in agriculture as a fungicide. 

An important organic compound, biphenyl is widely used in food preservatives, dye carriers, heat transfer fluids, organic syntheses, and as a chemical intermediate in the production of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In addition to being an excellent food preservative, it is used as an antifungal agent in the packaging of citrus fruits due to its ability to prevent food decomposition.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Eastman Chemical Company, Sigma Aldrich, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Oakwood Chemical, Life Chemicals, Lanxess AG, Matrix Scientific, Spectrum Chemical Mfg. Corp., and King Scientific are some of the players comprising the global biphenyl market.

Increasing application as a chemical intermediate

The past few years have witnessed a major shift in food consumption patterns. Remarkably, the increased intake of organic foods has been one of the most prominent trends worldwide. In order to meet this demand in a sustainable manner, the agriculture sector has been increasingly adopting organic farming techniques.

In May 2018, organic food exports from India had increased by more than 20%. Anticipating similar trends in the near future, the Indian government had made numerous efforts to promote sustainable and ecofriendly farming practices and limit the usage of chemicals and pesticides.

Citing a more recent instance, in May 2020, the European Union had announced plans to cut the use of agrochemicals and promote organic farming to protect the environment. According to the EU, the agriculture sector contributes to around 10% of the regional greenhouse gas emissions. The EU aims to reduce the risk of fertilizers by 20% and chemical pesticides by 50% by the end of 2030. 

Although these factors may restrict the application of biphenyl as a fungicide and other agrochemicals, the demand for sustainable alternatives could increase its application as a chemical intermediate, creating favorable opportunities for biphenyl suppliers.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation has been a major disruption for chemicals manufacturing activities during 2020. However, the latter half of the year has witnessed a gradual rise in chemicals production in many parts of the world.

As per the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index (U.S. CPRI) increased by over 1% during July, followed by a 0.8% gain in August and September each. During September, manufacturing continued to show improved growth in numerous segments, including organic chemicals, fertilizers, agrochemicals, crop protection chemicals, and other specialty chemicals.

Some key challenges for biphenyl manufacturers

The demand and consumption will be mainly affected by the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with the compound. The tightening of regulatory standards in recent years have limited the use of numerous biphenyl derivatives, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

In December 2020, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had issued a Revised Final Permit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for the Housatonic River’s Rest of River clean-up plan. The permit requires General Electric Company (GE) to remove contamination caused by PCBs.

Earlier in August, the U.S. EPA had reached an agreement with the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, to conduct field assessment activities and address the contamination of soil due to PCBs.

Although biphenyl consumption may be slightly restricted based on these factors, it consistent demand in food & beverage, textiles, and pharmaceutical applications will strengthen the global biphenyl industry outlook in the future.