The global sulphuric acid 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 Q2 2021
Availability was cripplingly tight in Q2. Large volumes of acid were placed on contract following a fractious 2020, and a lack of feedstock sulphur led to a fall in run rates at sulphur burners which further tightened the market.
Demand was stable for Asian tonnes in Q2 as the global sulphuric acid market turned bullish on tight supply and buyers slowed purchases.
Supply tightened in Q2 on a lack of availability in burner feedstock, liquid sulphur. Run rates at sulphur burners were heavily restricted by a shortage throughout the quarter, which pressured smelter acid suppliers and led to higher prices for both.
Demand increased in Q2 as supplies of burner acid tightened on a lack of feedstock sulphur. As buyers that usually rely on burner acid suppliers looked for new sources of acid, smelters and distributors were overwhelmed by the demand.
The US market, which was already tight after February’s major US Gulf freeze, received little reprieve during Q2. Although some regions of the country came closer to a balanced situation during Q2, Vale had to idle its Sudbury operations in Canada due to an employee strike. This put the US into an extremely tight supply situation, and a spate of smaller production problems were heard across the region as well.
Demand, although not at its strongest point of the year, was stressed during Q2 due to the severe shortages in product. With much domestic production offline, demand shifted more strongly to the import market, although European tonnes were in short supply as well. This left Asia as a source, which would likely hike prices significantly higher.
Updated to Q3 2021
Spot acid availability will remain stable – albeit at a low level – in Q3 as large volumes have already been fixed on contract, and what spot is available will be snapped up quickly. A lack of feedstock liquid sulphur is restricting burner acid availability, and threatens to further tighten spot supply.
Demand for spot acid tonnes will firm in Q3. Demand for tonnes from downstream chemical and fertilizer producers will persist as these key industries recover from coronavirus-related disruption.
It is likely that supply will continue to tighten in Q3 as a lack of burner feedstock liquid sulphur looks set to continue. This will lead to greater competition for volumes at smelter acid producers and tighter spot acid availability. INEOS’ decision to close its UK sulphur chemicals operations in Runcorn has left a gap in the market which will need to be filled by an acid-strapped Europe.
Demand will increase in Q3 amid ongoing tightness in spot availability and a lack of feedstock sulphur at burners. Q3 is typically a period that sees increased fertilizer production, and competition with chemicals plants for the little acid that is available could be intense.
It is quite unclear what the supply picture will be during Q3. US Gulf refineries should continue to improve run rates, which will improve feedstock supplies. However, Vale’s idled Sudbury operation in Canada is a question mark. At the end of Q2, the complex’s striking employees and company management remained far apart in negotiations.
If Vale’s Sudbury, Canada, operations remain idled, US demand in the import market will be high. One factor that could curb demand from being stronger is some points of consumption may undergo turnarounds that were put off last year during the pandemic.
We offer the following global phosphates analysis and news coverage to keep you informed of factors and developments affecting prices in the Sulphuric acid 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.
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Sulphuric acid is a strong mineral acid with a wide range of uses in industry. Pure sulphuric acid is a colourless, viscous liquid that can cause severe burns and serious eye and skin damage, and is therefore classified as corrosive or hazardous.
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.
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