The Sulphuric Acid markets are covered weekly by ICIS in the World Sulphuric Acid Weekly report. This independent and trustworthy publication gives price assessments for spot markets in China, Japan/Korea, southeast Asia and India, while contract prices are quoted for northeast Asia and southeast Asia.
Our market intelligence is gathered by our locally based reporters and gives details in the commentary about exports, downstream movements, shipment, freight rates and any other factors influencing prices. There is also coverage within the monthly Sulphur & Sulphuric Acid Outlook report. If you are involved in this market or other related markets, this essential tool can help you to make those crucial commercial choices.
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Sulphuric acid: Market overview
Updated to Q3 2018
Producers across Asia are fully committed throughout the majority of 2018, with the exception of Two Lions in China, which is sold-out throughout the third quarter. With demand increasing (see below), this is expected to extend availability shortages into the first quarter of 2019. Current sulphuric acid prices would support an increase in sulphur burning to produce sulphuric acid. Nevertheless, shortages of upstream sulphur are preventing this from happening.
With India domestic supply virtually dry, buyers have been forced to rely on imports, and since the Tuticorin closure, buying interest has spiked. Supply relief is not expected because of global shortages. Availability is already too low to meet current buying interest. South Korea producers also said that the loss of Tuticorin could see them shift volumes to India and away from China in the mid-term. With a larger pull across southeast Asia, OCP seeking to import large quantities into Morocco to feed their expanded phosphates capacity, and Chile expected to return to the market during the second-half of 2018 once the high inventory levels seen during the first-half are worked down, buying interest is expected to remain firm. Nevertheless, the immediate challenge for consumers remains securing material.
The majority of producers are fully committed on spot volumes for the remainder of 2018. While there is talk of available material from Poland, this could not be confirmed at source.Global sulphuric acid supply is also expected to remain tight throughout the second half of 2018. Producers are expected to continue to concentrate on supplying the domestic contract market at the expense of spot volumes.
With Chile expected to return to the market in the second half of 2018 following limited buying interest in the first half due to high inventory levels, enquiries for European material are expected to rise, particularly given the shortages in Asia in the wake of the Tuticorin permanent closure. Demand from OCP remains strong, with availability remaining the limiting factor. Sources have previously said that OCP’s imports of sulphuric acid could breach the 2m tonne barrier in 2018, given the start up of its new phosphates unit. OCP imported around 1.5m tonnes of sulphuric acid in 2017. Limited sulphur availability because of production problems at the Grossenkneten gas field, lack of Black Sea volumes because of a lack of available vessels and a sweeter crude mix, continue to prevent increased sulphur burning. This is forcing a greater reliance on sulphuric aicd.
It is unclear where overall sulphuric acid supply will be over the course of the third quarter. On one hand, Unity Envirotech’s ammonium sulphate plant will continue to ramp up its consumption of sulphuric acid. On the other hand, several smelters and burners have come out of turnaround recently, which will alleviate some supply tension.
US sulphuric acid demand is expected to stay steady and strong during the third quarter as the US remains in a deficit of the product. The Henry, Illinois ammonium sulphate plant by Unity Envirotech will continue to ramp up and consume more tonnes as time goes by.
News & analysis
Sulphuric acid news & analysis
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Sulphuric Acid Methodology
About Sulphuric acid
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.