The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid monthly report forms part of the comprehensive and trustworthy coverage of the Fertilizer markets. The unbiased news and analysis includes sections on market overview, key drivers, regional updates, supply and demand outlooks as well as forecasts and any other factors driving prices. If you are involved with these or related markets, this independent and essential business tool can help you to make crucial strategic decisions. Integer Research produces the Outlook reports on behalf of ICIS.
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The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid: Market overview
Updated to Q3 2016
The outlook for the international sulphur markets looks stable following a bumpy second-quarter in terms of price fluctuations for the benchmark Chinese market and poorer than expected downstream demand, especially for phosphates fertilizers. During the second half of 2016, the sulphur market was expected to find itself in a position of oversupply but owing to delays with the Barzan gas project in Qatar, any surplus in availability is no longer expected. A backdrop of lower than expected international demand for downstream phosphate fertilizers is also expected to hang over the sulphur market if operating rates for DAP and MAP fail to improve. Demand for Indian phosphates producers could lend some support to the market, but this remains questionable owing to high stock levels of finished product currently held in the country. Brazil too raises a question-mark since it continues to operate in a backdrop of political and financial instability.
Updated to Q3 2016
The global sulphuric acid market moved to a more balanced position during Q2, but oversupply is expected to feature again during Q3.
Greater availability is expected in August from the majority of regions, with only Europe experiencing some maintenance events. Asian producers are expected to have spot product on offer during the quarter, with the majority of their maintenance scheduled for Q4.
Global balance is also expected to be impacted by the start-up of Sherritt’s new sulphur-burning capacity in Cuba, which at full capacity will remove around 450,000 tonnes of demand for European acid.
Demand from Latin American regions especially Chile, is expected to remain lacklusture, and demand from Brazil likely to be served from Mexico’s Boleo sulphur burner and European acid, despite interest from Asian sellers.
Buyer OCP in Morocco continues to absorb large volumes of European acid and is expected to continue being an outlet for length from various other markets.
Higher demand is not expected in the US, showing disappointing start, with year to date, (January-May) imports 5% lower than in 2015.
News & analysis
The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid news & analysis
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The Outlook Methodology
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.