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 2019
Asian sulphuric acid availability has declined in Q2 2019. Chinese producers sat out the end of the quarter as global acid prices nosedived. In southeast Asia demand has been notably poor. Low prices have led to the formation of a buyers’ market.
Asian acid demand has been very weak in Q2 2019, with downstream industries in China slowing production, and fertilizer producers in southeast Asia choosing not to stock up. Even India – where Sterlite’s Tuticorin smelter remains off line – failed to issue any particularly large-volume import tenders.
European sulphuric acid availability was mixed in Q2 2019. Producers continued to focus on contract business over spot cargoes, although acid availability at international traders has been notably long. Traders took positions to lift cargoes in May through to August in the hopes of strong demand, which failed to appear. As a result, traders were competing bitterly for every requirement.
European sulphuric acid demand was stable in Q2 2019, as some 90% of the European market is supplied by contract business. Spot demand was notably lacklustre, although some cargoes were traded to North Africa, where Morocco’s OCP was waiting to feed its immense phosphate fertilizer operation.
Sulphuric acid supply in the US improved during the quarter. Offers of product from Europe were few and far between. Domestically, Kennecott completed a short planned turnaround on its smelter. Freeport McMoran completed an Arizona turnaround. Veolia Burnside and EcoServices Baton Rouge spent part of May in planned maintenance. Poor weather affected industrial and agriculture markets that are end-users of sulphuric acid, curbing supply from being noticeably lower from the turnarounds.
US demand was slightly decreased during the second quarter. Poor weather across the Midwest impacted fertilizer demand and logistics which invariably had an impact on upstream feeds, such as sulphur and sulphuric acid. It was not expected for the dip in demand to continue for a sustained period of time. Some buyers on short-term contracts who procure their acid from sulphur burners were heard to have experienced price drops on the back of the Tampa Q2 sulphur settlement.
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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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