Global Market Outlook on Sulfur and Sulfuric Acid 

  • The global demand is expected to grow at 4–5 percent CAGR for sulfur and 2 percent CAGR for sulfuric acid through 2016–2022 
  • Asia (high population zones: China and India) is expected to drive the demand for sulfur 
  • The Chinese phosphate industry has witnessed a slump in 2016, which has begun to pick up in late Q4 2016 and expected to improve consumption of both the commodities for the coming years 
  • Sulfuric acid usage in the chemicals segment is also expected to increase by about 1 percent CAGR during the same period


Demand Market Outlook

  • The global sulfur and sulfuric acid markets were well supplied in 2017–2018 
  • Increasing crude output is expected to increase the supply–demand gap in sulfur, while the sulfuric acid market is expected to remain oversupplied 
  • Both the markets are expected to shift toward the buyer’s side in the next two years

Global Market Size: Sulfuric Acid

  • The global sulfuric acid market is expected to reach $83 billion by 2022 
  • The key market driving end use is the agriculture segment (used for producing phosphoric acid, and in turn, phosphate fertilizers) 
  • Global agriculture production is expected and being aimed to grow at 1–2 per year in the next decade, which is likely to be a key driver for the sulfuric acid market
  • The top importers China, India, and the US are expected to drive the sulfuric acid market 
  •  Fertilizer consumption is high in China and India, followed by the US 
  •  Based on FAO, the caloric requirement is expected to double in the next 25 years, with population touching 8 billion

 Global Capacity–Demand Analysis 

  •   In the long run, all the key production markets are likely to get self-sustained, which is expected to export sulfur to import in the regions, like LATAM and Africa 
  •   This is likely to shift negotiation power toward buyers in the markets, like North America, in the next 3–4 years

Market Outlook 

  • Capacity dynamics: Sulfur production is expected to increase by about 27 percent from 2016 to 2021. Sulfur is primarily produced during the crude oil and natural gas refining (>96 percent of the total production). Crude production is expected to increase in the coming years as per WOO, stating population growth by 11 percent until 2022. One such scenario can be seen where rig counts in the US increased from 700 levels in 2016 to 1,900 levels by early 2017. The increased oil output is likely to improve sulfur production as well. The rest is produced from Pyrites and mining activities of sulfur deposits 
  • Key consumption regions: China (28 percent), the US (18 percent), and Middle East & Africa (18 percent) 
  • Key producing regions: China (17 percent), the US (12 percent), Russia (10 percent), and Canada (8 percent

Engagement Outlook

  • Concept of negative pricing: Instances were noticed in 2009, when negative pricing was prevalent in the US, due to excess supply and economic recession, where agriculture activities slumped to a large extent. However, though such scenario is unlikely in the future, extensive discounts or allowances in the prices of sulfur are likely in the key markets, when they attain self-sufficiency and find it difficult to place material in the international markets