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 Q1 2021
Asian sulphuric acid availability was cripplingly tight in Q1. Large volumes of acid were placed on contract following a fractious 2020, and a lack of feedstock sulphur led to sulphur burners’ run rates declining; further tightening the market.
Sulphuric acid demand firmed for Asian tonnes in Q1 2021, as the global sulphuric acid market turned bullish on tight supply. Demand has only strengthened as the lack of ready spot availability led buyers to scramble in search of tonnes, leading to some unusual sales from non-traditional sources.
European sulphuric acid supplies tightened in Q1, primarily on a lack of availability in burner feedstock liquid sulphur. Sulphur burners’ run rates were heavily restricted by the shortage throughout the quarter – which subsequently pressured smelter acid suppliers; leading to higher prices for both.
European sulphuric acid demand increased in Q1 2020, as supplies of burner acid tightened on a lack of feedstock sulphur. As buyers that usually relied on burner acid suppliers turned to the market to locate a new source of acid, smelters and distributors alike were quickly overwhelmed by demand.
The tight supply situation in the US, which had begun to ease during Q4, reversed course again in Q1 when a major freeze hit the US Gulf and brought the region’s refining and petrochemicals production to a halt during February. At the end of the month, some sulphuric acid operations were still struggling to restart.
Although Q1 is typically a slow period for sulphuric acid, feedstock shortages led to some additional demand during the quarter, mainly from the fertilizer sector. Regarding the freeze that hit the US Gulf in February, demand remained in relative balance to supply, since consumption points were knocked offline as well as production points.
Updated to Q2 2021
Asian spot acid availability will remain stable – albeit at a low level – in Q2, 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 supplies.
Demand for spot acid tonnes from Asia will continue to firm in Q2 2021. Downstream chemical and fertilizer producers’ demand for tonnes will persist as these key industries recover from coronavirus-related disruption.
It is likely sulphuric acid supplies will continue to tighten in Q2 2021, as an ongoing lack of burners feedstock liquid sulphur is set to continue. In turn, this will lead to greater competition for smelter acid producers’ tonnes, and a general increase in tight spot acid availability. Added to this is news of INEOS closing its UK sulphur chemicals operations at Runcorn – leaving a gap in the market which will need to be filled from an acid-strapped Europe.
European sulphuric acid demand will increase in Q2 2021, amid an ongoing tightness in spot availability and a lack of feedstock sulphur at burners. The second quarter is also typically a time for increased fertilizer production, and competition with chemicals plants for what acid is available could be intense.
Sulphuric acid is expected to be more readily available during Q2 on a domestic basis. US Gulf refineries should continue to improve run rates, which will improve feedstock supplies.
Some demand was already seen early in the year for Q2 by the fertilizer sector. Importers may have a difficult time sourcing import tonnes in a bullish global market during the quarter, as higher feedstock sulphur prices may prove prohibitive for some buyers.
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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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Over 25 years of reporting on key chemicals markets, including Sulphuric acid, 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.
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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