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.
Commodities covered in The Market include:
Updated to Q4 2020
Chinese port stocks dropped by around 700,000 tonnes during the quarter. Spot availability from the Middle East was constant.
Buying activity was sustained during Q4. The downstream phosphates sector was firm throughout Q4, which boosted sentiment for feedstock sulphur in China and India.
Liquid sulphur supply remained tight in Q4. Refineries reduced output in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of the Volga-Don waterway during the winter limited trade flows out of the CIS region.
Demand was stable following Q4 settlements in October. Demand from the downstream capro sector increased but became balanced following an outage at a Belgian facility in November.
Sulphur supply in the Gulf was extremely constrained, as refinery production remained at record low levels. This left little to export to overseas destinations, as well as less supply to sell domestically to sulphur burners.
Demand for US sulphur remained strong on a domestic basis from the fertilizer sector. Demand eased somewhat from the domestic sulphuric acid market, as major US producer Kennecott’s smelter came back online end-October.
Updated to Q1 2021
Supply is expected to remain constant in Asia, as there are no known plans for output cuts in the region.
Demand in Asia will be highly influenced by India’s appetite for DAP. The outcome of phosphoric acid settlements will determine whether it is cheaper to import DAP than produce it domestically. More DAP imports in Q1 will mean more demand for sulphur from China.
Refinery output levels are expected to remain tight amid coronavirus lockdown measures on the continent and planned outages.
Demand will continue to be dependent on conditions in the sulphuric acid and capro markets. The impact of the coronavirus on downstream demand will also be an important factor.
The supply situation for North America is somewhat unclear for Q1, after a year of nearly decade-low US production. Continued lower refinery run rates are expected during 2021 as demand for refined products stays low. This will temper sulphur supply as well.
Sustained demand in the Americas is expected in Q1. Canadian sulphur especially will be sought-after as Chinese inventories fall lower and US production remains weak. Domestically, demand for sulphur burners will be decreased on a combination of seasonality and better US sulphuric acid production.
We offer the following global phosphates analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Sulphur marketplace.
Breaking news of latest developments affecting the markets.
Insight and analysis of factors driving prices.
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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