The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Prices, markets & analysis
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The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid: Market overview
In Europe, the market is expected to remain balanced, with Brazil and Chile levelling out the European market – both countries are now covered and will not be in the market until May.
Export prices moved away from a negative to $0-10/tonne FOB (free on board) NWE (northwest Europe) in March, but prices are now expected to remain steady. No major smelter turnarounds are expected during the remainder of 2014, leading to a slightly bearish outlook if demand for export turns out to be at a low level.
On a contract basis, sellers are looking to increase prices by €5-10/tonne from Q1 to Q2. However, since market dynamics are expected to remain broadly unchanged, buyers see no reason for prices to firm.
In Asia, buyers and sellers are keen to settle second-quarter contract sooner than later. The market is expected to remain focused on the Philippines and the restart of the PASAR smelter, which came back on line in March. Maintenance is planned at the Taganito project and could result in a drop in demand.
In terms of pricing, producers are pushing for increases based on higher sulphur values, with offers at $60/tonne CFR (cost & freight) SE (southeast) Asia. In Japan, sellers are pushing for an increase of $10/tonne to reflect rising sulphur values. However, buyers are reluctant to accept any increases based on sulphur price increases from suppliers that are all smelter related.
In the US, various smelter outages are planned but this is not expected to have a huge impact on supply or indeed prices. The cold weather in Canada is expected to ease and this in turn should result in improved availability.
Updated to mid-April 2014
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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.