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 2020
Asian spot export sulphuric acid supply increased in Q1 2020, as downstream domestic demand slowed, meaning more tonnage was instead available for international export. The global acid market turned bearish as a result, and low-priced Asian acid has been seen sold into Brazil, India, Chile and Morocco.
Asian demand slowed considerably in Q1, as the region – particularly China – was hard-hit by the coronavirus and its accompanying lockdowns and shutdowns. Although China appeared to be returning to a semblance of normality by the end of Q1, other nations – notably India – started to struggle with their own outbreak.
European sulphuric acid supply was relatively stable in Q1, although an antiviral legislation, civilian lockdowns and logistical issues caused by staff shortages hit hard in late February and into March.
European spot sulphuric acid demand was weak in Q1, on a combination of low seasonality, poor weather for fertilizer applications, and coronavirus-related lockdowns. Downstream demand from the automotive, chemical and fertilizer sectors was especially weak. Production continues at base metal smelters, despite the lack of acid demand, although the byproduct has gradually lost value.
Supply in the US was lessened as a result of Asarco’s Arizona smelter operations remaining down due to employee strikes. Additionally, at the end of the quarter, Rio Tinto’s Kennecott smelter in Utah was down for two days after an earthquake and came back up at reduced rates. No major impact was seen as a result of major transportation problems in Canada. SATCO’s new tank in California brought in several cargoes during the quarter.
Demand was mostly balanced during the quarter, but some uptick in domestic demand was seen as a result of Asarco’s Arizona smelter being down. Additionally, Excelsior’s Arizona operations partially ramped up for part of the quarter, which was a new point of consumption in the US.
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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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