Supply And Demand on the Sulfur Global Market

Dec 19th, 2017

At the end of 2017, the price of sulfur on the global market has declined. In November, the price of sulphur reached a high of $225 per tonne CFR China, but in early December, a ton of sulfur was sold for $190. Daniel Solomon, the analyst at Fertecon, predicts that this trend will persist throughout the next year. In his report at the conference “Sulfur and Sulfuric Acid 2017” organized by CREON Chemicals Solomon outlined several reasons for the decline of the sulfur pricesĀ  including the slumping demand on key global markets and the launch of new plants in Canada, Kazakhstan, Iran, Qatar and the UAE, who came out with their products to the export market.

The question if this forecast is accurate remains open as Solomon himself says that there has been a tight supply of sulphur during the second half of 2017. Despite of the fact that H2SO4 supply exceeds demand, the shortage affected the price jump.

This year China has reduced the consumption of sulphur but it was not as low as expected. In Australia and the U.S. prices continued to decline due to the closure of the plant in Ravensthorpe, Australia and facility of the company Mosaic. In addition, the technical failures that took place in some countries also influenced the decrease in sulfur production. The capacity utilization declined significantly due to two major disasters – the fire at a major refinery in Europe and hurricane Harvey in the U.S., the latter reduced the performance by 20%.

The dual situation with the consumption of sulphur is observed in Kazakhstan, the second largest consumer and manufacturer of sulfuric acid in the CIS after Russia. In view of the increase in the production of phosphate fertilizers where sulfuric acid is widely used, Kazakhstan will increase its consumption.

However, at the same time a significant reduction in uranium production, which also requires sulphuric acid, will adversely affect the sulphur consumption. There is a slight chance that the output growth of phosphate fertilizers can balance the sulfuric acid demand.

Maria Dubinina, the analyst of CREON group, reported about the growth of sulphuric acid production in Russia in 2017 whcih has ramped up the production of H2SO4 by 7%, and the total amount of this product will amount to 12 million tons. Today, the main producers of sulfuric acid in Russia are the enterprises of nonferrous metallurgy; in particular, a number of large zinc smelting plants in the Urals (Karbashmed, Svyatogor, and SUMZ) are working at full stretch, delivering their products on the domestic market.