The Sulphur markets are covered by ICIS weekly in China and on a global basis. Our market intelligence is gathered by our network of locally based reporters. The China report covers spot domestic prices, while the global report has price assessments for contract prices in Tampa and North Africa, spot prices in the Middle East and China and spot/contract hybrid prices in Vancouver.
Unbiased and independent commentary includes information on shipping activity, demand and supply, regional updates and any other influencing factors at the time. There is also coverage within the monthly Sulphur & Sulphuric Acid Outlook report. You can use this reliable information to keep up-to-date on market movements and make informed business decisions.
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Sulphur: Market overview
Updated to Q3 2017
By the end of the second quarter, sulphur prices in China, India, the Middle East and Brazil had increased, defying expectations that rising supply would lead to a fall in prices. Availability during the second quarter was lower than expected, fuelled largely by higher demand in China due to lower refinery run rates and empty pipelines. The unexpected price movements during the period resulted in growing uncertainty over what the third quarter would bring.
China's downstream phosphates sector in the third quarter – typically its strongest period – is not expected to be as strong as in previous years because of India's growing reliance on domestic sulphur production. Nevertheless, tight global supply of downstream sulphuric acid has led to increased sulphur burning in China, counterbalancing this. Sulphuric acid is expected to remain tight for the rest of 2017.
The supply of sulphur will largely be determined by long-delayed large scale projects, such as the Kashagan oil fields, and when they start delivering volumes in the market. This is expected to fundamentally lengthen the supply/demand balance.
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Sulphur news & analysis
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.
Our in-depth market knowledge drives our specialist focus, as we recognise the importance of individual market dynamics and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Over 25 years of reporting on key chemicals markets, including Sulphur, 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.
Sulphur is used in fertilizers, normally in the form of ammonium sulphate, where there is a deficiency of sulphur in the soil.
Sulphur is also used to make sulphuric acid from sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is used to make dyes and as a bleaching agent.
Sulphur has a pale yellow appearance and has a slight odour of rotten egg. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in carbon disulphide.
It is found in meteorites, volcanoes, hot springs, and as galena, gypsum, Epsom salts and barite. It is also a minor constituent of fats, body fluids and skeletal minerals.
There are two key sources of processing sulphur. The first is the Frasch process, where sulphur is extracted from underground without mining it.
In the Frasch process, underground deposits of sulphur are forced to the surface using superheated water and steam (to melt the sulphur) and compressed air. This gives molten sulphur, which is allowed to cool in large basins. Purity can reach 99.5%. The process is energy intense.
Another source of sulphur is as a by-product of processing crude oil and natural gas, which contain hydrogen sulphide. It is produced in crush lump, flake and prilled form.
Key industrial uses of sulphur includes production of black gunpowder, asphalt, vulcanisation of natural rubber, as a fungicide and as a fumigant, use in the bleaching of dried fruits and for paper products.