Sulphur In The Industry
Sulphur is a by-product from sour gas and crude oil processing and the precursor of sulfuric acid. As an oversupply is projected for the near-term future, it is prudent to investigate new sulfur applications and market domains that may facilitate a balancing of supply and demand.
Today’s sulfur industry is unique compared to other mineral industries – because it is produced primarily as a by-product, sulfur supply and demand are not typically balanced, which has resulted in oversupply over many of the past several years. Nevertheless, sulfur is a valuable commodity and the primary precursor of sulfuric acid, which is considered as an essential chemical for the world economy. The involuntary supply of sulfur can be seen as a chance to develop more sustainable technologies across several industries. This paper reviews possible new applications in the construction, polymer, battery, thermal energy storage, and fertilizer industries, thereby providing the opportunity to more closely balance sulfur supply and demand, for a more sustainable future.
Should the world find itself in a sulfur shortage by sulphur suppliers in the future (which could be possible as a result of growth in renewable energy, shale gas/oil proliferation and population growth), this would be a much greater problem than the current slight oversupply situation, thus making it important to consider sulfur recoverability as a key factor for any sulfur sink technologies explored.
With increasing demand and depleting oil and gas reserves, more difficult, often sulfur-rich, i.e., ‘‘sour” resources are required to be developed, which are less economically attractive than ‘‘sweeter” reserves. Dealing with these sour resources is in itself a challenge, but furthermore results in additional involuntary sulfur output, in a currently oversupplied market. In addition to the exploitation of sourer oil and gas resources, more stringent limits on sulfur levels in fuel are also being implemented worldwide. Therefore, deeper desulfurization is required, which is usually achieved by hydro treatment, and may further contribute to sulfur oversupply.
the majority of sulfur is converted into sulfuric acid. Only minor amounts of elemental sulfur are directly used for pesticides, agricultural chemicals or other chemical or pharmaceutical application. The sulfuric acid is mostly used as a chemical reagent in leaching or catalytic processes: examples are ore mining or processing of phosphate, petroleum alkylation, manufacture of methyl methacrylate (a precursor for acrylics) and caprolactam (a nylon precursor). At the end of the industrial life cycle, sulfur mainly has to be disposed of as waste, normally by the formation of its salts (sulfates).
Most industrial sulfur is released to the environment as either sulfite (e.g. atmospheric emissions) or sulfate (runoff, gypsum)
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