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 2020
Spot export sulphuric acid supply tightened in Q2, as downstream domestic demand improved, meaning more tonnage was directed into local markets. By the end of Q2, much of Asia’s acid production was tied into contracts. Producers in South Korea were reportedly sold out until August and September.
Demand improved marginally in Q2 as the region – particularly China – started to show improved downstream demand from many industries. That said, demand remained far below the norm and is still balanced on a knife-edge. Should a second wave of infections force additional lockdowns, demand may retreat once again in Q3.
Sulphuric acid supply was stable in Q2, with no reported shortages or outages. Indeed, a slight oversupply was seen at times as downstream acid-consuming industries were somewhat unreliable in their purchasing patterns owing to coronavirus-related swings in consumer demand. Automotive remained the weakest end-use market.
Spot sulphuric acid demand was stable in Q2 in an otherwise poor start to the year. By the end of the quarter many acid-consuming industries were coming back online, although demand was below the norm. Downstream draw from the automotive and chemical sectors was notably weak, although fertilizers demand bucked the trend.
Supply remained mostly balanced, despite the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, feedstock constraints and varying demand requirements throughout the region. Reduced feedstock production, coupled with decreased smelter production at Kennecott, tightened sulphuric acid supply.
The US saw weak demand from industrial areas of the market, like copper, automotive and refining. This was somewhat balanced by stronger demand from the agricultural, water treatment and paper sectors. Overall, demand is understood to be slightly lower than usual for this time of year.
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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.