Vancouver sulphur exports down from 2013 on Syncrude delay

11 April 2014 23:00 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Vancouver sulphur exports totalled 221,328 tonnes in February 2014, down 42% year over year, according to data provided on Friday by Port Metro Vancouver. 

Australia received the most sulphur exports in February with 69,103 tonnes. However, it was only slightly more than half of exports to Australia last year in February, when they totalled 135,057 tonnes.

Chile received the second-most with 59,273 tonnes, down from 63,377 tonnes in February last year.

Vancouver did not export any sulphur to China in February 2014, after sending 112,079 in February 2013. This continues the trend of sulphur exports from Vancouver to China falling since 2012 due to increased availability from closer producers in the Middle East and Asia.

Vancouver sulphur shipments did increase month over month, up from 154,873 tonnes in January.

The low numbers of exports in January and February were expected due to maintenance issues at Syncrude, the largest producer of sulphur in Canada. Sulphur loading was shut down on 9 January due to quality issues with the product and is not expected back up until 21 April at the earliest. Some sources expect that sulphur loading will not be back up until May.

A marketer speaking this week on the sidelines of the Sulphur Institute Sulphur Symposium in Long Beach, California said that the low Vancouver export numbers were due to a lack of supply from Syncrude rather than flagging demand. Demand was heard to be good from the Oceanic region, but supply was not there due to the delayed restart of Syncrude sulphur loading and poor transport conditions this winter.

Prices in the international market have weakened as demand in China has been flat since the middle of the first quarter due to buyers pushing for lower prices. The Middle Eastern producers who export to China have significantly dropped their prices in April and May, with Saudi Aramco recently decreasing its May price by $51/tonne to $129/tonne FOB (free on board) Middle East.

However, the North American market has not yet experienced the rapid decreases, with Syncrude’s outage keeping Canada tight and Tampa second-quarter contracts settling at $133/long ton DEL (delivered), up $23/long ton from the first quarter.

The Vancouver sulphur market has a broad price range, with ideas as low as the $150s/tonne FOB range despite the Syncrude shutdown. Spot sulphur is now assessed at $150-180/tonne FOB (free on board) Vancouver.

By David Tonyan