The global sulphur markets are covered weekly by ICIS in The Market. The Market gives you the global view on the fertilizer market, and is tailored for the international fertilizers business. The commentary includes supply and demand trends, production news, shipping enquiries, fertilizer prices and price drivers and fluctuations.
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Updated to Q3 2019
There was ample supply of sulphur in China, as buying from the end-use phosphates fertilizer market remained limited. Chinese port stocks were above 2m tonnes, a level last seen in 2013. Geopolitical issues in Iran and the Arab Gulf led to some uncertainty about availability and possible changes in trade routes. Attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities had little impact on sulphur supply in the Middle East.
Demand in Asia failed to see any recovery, due to ample supply of the end-use phosphate fertilizer diammonium phosphate (DAP) in India. As a result, there was limited demand for sulphur from China, the largest importer of sulphur to produce DAP.
In northwest Europe, liquid sulphur supply was tight at the beginning of the quarter. Supply balanced out in August. The sulphur market was long in southern Europe in September as buyers were well stocked and buying activity became limited.
Demand was stable following third-quarter contract settlements in mid-June. July and August are typically slow months for sulphur, as many industrial downstream facilities go into maintenance during the peak summer holiday period. Cutbacks in caprolactam (capro) production also limited demand for sulphur and sulphuric acid.
US sulphur supply during the third quarter was increased. The Martin Midstream Beaumont shiploader outage significantly affected the ability to ship prilled material offshore. Sulphur inventories were shifted over the course of the quarter, and ample supply was available for sulphur burners who use it to produce sulphuric acid.
Record-high Chinese inventories put pressure on demand around the globe, including Canada. The US saw a decrease in demand as Brazil mining was idled for part of the quarter, though all mines were restarted by October.
We offer the following global phosphates analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Sulphur marketplace.
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ICIS price assessments are based on information gathered from a wide cross-section of the market, comprising consumers, producers, traders and distributors from more than 250 reporters world-wide. Confirmed deals, verified by both buyer and seller, provide the foundation of our price assessments.
Our in-depth market knowledge drives our specialist focus, as we recognise the importance of individual market dynamics and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Over 25 years of reporting on key chemicals markets, including Sulphur, has brought global recognition of our methodology as being unbiased, authoritative and rigorous in preserving our editorial integrity. Our global network of reporters in Houston, London, Singapore, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Mumbai, Perth and Moscow ensures unrivalled coverage of established and emerging markets.
Sulphur (S) is an important element in nature. As a constituent of proteins, has a similar nutrient value to nitrogen (N) and is essential to the life of plants, with its lack causing similar effects to the lack of nitrogen.
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.
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