Sulphur prices in the Mediterranean follow global trend

28 February 2014 09:52 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Supply limited by weather conditions in Europe and North America as well as production problems

Sulphur prices in the Mediterranean are following the recent upward global price trend on the back of various market fundamentals, sources said on 19 February.

“There is zero availability,” commented one international sulphur trader. “It’s a real combination of issues. The Russian stuff – supply is limited, which it normally is this time of year. The Arab Gulf has technical issues and Canada has a very cold winter which has led to lower tonnes from Alberta to Vancouver,” the trader added.

Sulphur traders with activities in the Mediterranean quoted anywhere between $175-195/tonne CFR Mediterranean, which marks an increase of $95/tonne since the start of 2013, when sulphur was quoted at $80-100/tonne.

A second international trader described the Mediterranean sulphur market as “interesting”.

“The Med is interesting - prices are firming up very quickly and I saw offers in Egypt and Turkey touching $200/tonne CFR.

“We will have the absence of the Black Sea until mid April. The only place you can get [sulphur] is from the refineries in Italy and Spain. Romania and Bulgaria can’t satisfy the fertilizer market,” the trader said.

Prices quoted as high as $200/tonne CFR Mediterranean were dismissed by a third trader.

“$200/tonne – no way. It’s $175-185/tonne in Turkey. If you take it outside the Med it’s $200/tonne plus” the trader added.

According to traders, a cargo was leaving Cadiz in Spain for Senegal in Africa at around $200/tonne CFR Mediterranean.

Sulphur has been firming in the Middle East because of refinery run cuts, which has impacted on the rest of the world, but particularly major importing region China, and also in India.

Middle East producers have all announced price increases for February and March because of market tightness, thus spurring the upward global price momentum.

Saudi Aramco Trading set its monthly sulphur price for shipments in March at $190/tonne FOB (free on board) Middle East, up by $40/tonne from February.

Qatar’s Tasweeq sets its monthly Qatar Sulphur price (QSP) for February at $163/tonne FOB Middle East, up $36/tonne from January.

Also in the Middle East, UAE’s (United Arab Emirates) ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) set its OSP (Official Selling Price) for February for the Indian market at $180/tonne FOB, up $40/tonne from January.

Sulphur is an involuntary by-product recovered from oil and gas production. 90% of sulphur is used for the production of sulphuric acid, of which close to 60% is used to make phosphate fertilizers.

By Julia Meehan