Editor's Comment: The new sulphur valueby Martin Menachery on Mar 15, 2017
As we strive to meet the world’s escalating energy demand, the involuntary production of elemental sulphur is continuously happening during the processing of oil and gas. Over the past many decades, sulphur supply has generally exceeded demand. Since there are no ways to connect sulphur supply to meet demand, the industry is continuously facing volatility in its prices. This is why sulphur is traditionally considered as a low-value commodity.
In our cover story, Angie Slavens, managing director of UniverSUL Consulting, explains that the commodity is the raw feedstock used to produce sulphuric acid – the world’s most widely used chemical, which in turn is used in the production of phosphate fertilisers, making it directly linked to supporting the global food supply chain. Sulphur – a by-product of oil and gas processing – thus becomes a vital commodity. In addition to the value of the sulphur produced, the sulphur recovery plant is a net energy exporter, providing the energy balance of the processing complex.
Currently, the Middle East region is producing nearly 25 percent of the world’s elemental sulphur. The UAE is presently the world’s 4th largest sulphur producer and the largest exporter. Within the next five years, the sulphur facilities at Shah sour gas plant are expected to be expanded by another 5,000 MTPD, bringing the total sulphur production in the UAE to over 20,000 MTPD, making it one of the top three sulphur producing nations in the world.
It is interesting to note that sulphur, considered by most of the oil and gas producers as a costly consequence of environmental compliance, actually has a strong and significant supply chain of its own. Another important point to make is that ADNOC is planning to support the development of a local sulphur product industry, including advanced fertilisers.