The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Prices, markets & analysis
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The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid: Market overview
Updated to Q2 2015
The global sulphuric acid market is set to remain balanced-to-tight throughout the second quarter of 2015.
Demand from key importing nations Chile and China are expected to continue at a similar rate to last year. However, imports are slightly down in both regions in January-February 2015, compared with imports in the same period in 2014.
South Korean and Japanese smelters will remain key exporters in the Asia region. Despite smelter-acid availability remaining tight and prices at higher levels than last year, China is expected to continue exporting cargoes as the market demands, especially to India. The Philippines market will be especially quiet during the second quarter, with maintenance planned at both producer and consumer plants.
The European market is expected to remain balanced and the majority of supply will be covered by contracts. Spot cargoes are anticipated to be limited, but recent strong demand from the US Gulf and some demand from Brazil will see cargoes moving across the transatlantic routes.
News & analysis
The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid news & analysis
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About The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid
Sulphur is used in fertilizers, normally in the form of ammonium sulphate, where there is a deficiency of sulphur in the soil.
Sulphur is also used to make sulphuric acid from sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is used to make dyes and as a bleaching agent.
Sulphur has a pale yellow appearance and has a slight odour of rotten egg. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in carbon disulphide.
It is found in meteorites, volcanoes, hot springs, and as galena, gypsum, Epsom salts and barite. It is also a minor constituent of fats, body fluids and skeletal minerals.
There are two key sources of processing sulphur. The first is the Frasch process, where sulphur is extracted from underground without mining it.
In the Frasch process, underground deposits of sulphur are forced to the surface using superheated water and steam (to melt the sulphur) and compressed air. This gives molten sulphur, which is allowed to cool in large basins. Purity can reach 99.5%. The process is energy intense.
Another source of sulphur is as a by-product of processing crude oil and natural gas, which contain hydrogen sulphide. It is produced in crush lump, flake and prilled form.
Key industrial uses of sulphur includes production of black gunpowder, asphalt, vulcanisation of natural rubber, as a fungicide and as a fumigant, use in the bleaching of dried fruits and for paper products.
A key use of sulphuric acid is for the production of fertilizers. Other uses include the production of carbon disulphide, sulphur dioxide and phosphorous pentasulphide; pulp and paper; and rubber vulcanising. Sulphuric acid can also be used in its diluted form as battery acid for the automotive sector.
Sulphuric acid is colourless in appearance and of an oily liquid consistency. It is both corrosive and toxic and has the ability to cause serious burns. In addition, it is harmful through inhalation, ingestion and through skin contact.