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All roads lead to Rome

Summary

The Sulphur 2009 Conference and Exhibition came to Rome this year, in the wake of precipitous recent drops in the price of sulphur which have left the industry hungry for clues as to where prices are headed.

Abstract

Opening the conference, Conference Director John French wondered aloud whether it was the choice of the venue or the recent record run of high sulphur prices which had led to this year’s record number of delegates; 614 from 59 countries. The state of the market over the past few months had certainly been remarkable, with sulphur prices now dropping “like a stone”, far faster than they went up. He hoped that people would glean some information over the coming days as to the direction in which things were likely to be moving in the future.

John thanked the sponsors of the various events and features of the conference, including Nuova Solmine and Eni for the gala dinner at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, PRAI Shipping, Escofert, Zolfital and Zolfindustria for the Italian evening at Villa Miani, BASF for the coffee breaks, Solvadis for Monday’s Champagne Breakfast, and Lewis Pumps for the conference bags.

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Sulphuric acid shipping

Summary

Although only a small proportion of sulphuric acid is transported over long distances, the size of the market means that that still represents a significant volume; over 8.5 million t/a which is transported inter-regionally, via fleets of tankers which must meet high specifications.

Abstract

The world’s production of sulphuric acid will be an estimated 205 million tonnes in 2008, up from 200 million t/a in 2007. However, the difficulties and hence costs involved in storing and shipping acid mean that only 6% of this production is actually traded across borders; about 13 million tonnes in 2007. Nevertheless, global trade has grown by 15% over the past 5 years, and two thirds of trade is seaborne, which has grown roughly in proportion to overall trade. Long-haul seaborne trade tends to set the market rate for sulphuric acid.

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In the eye of the storm

Summary

Nickel production has moved increasingly towards laterite ores, which are processed by pressure acid leaching. This trend is expected to turn the nickel industry into a net consumer of sulphuric acid over the longer term, but will the numerous laterite nickel ore projects that have been mooted over the next decade survive the current market turbulence – and how effective is the present technology for processing laterite ores?

Abstract

Until very recently, the prognosis appeared clear: in common with other metals, nickel was enjoying an extended boom and a wave of new projects in Australia, the Pacific Basin, Africa and Eastern Europe was set to add substantially to global capacity during the forthcoming years. Many of these projects planned to exploit the laterite-rich zones. This had clear implications for the sulphuric acid market, as acid leach processing of laterite ores has been the fastest developing market for sulphur and sulphuric acid.

Sulphide deposits were traditionally the predominant source of nickel, but these have been heavily exploited and today, estimated reserves of nickel primarily comprise laterite ores, at around 61% of the total compared with an estimated 39% for sulphides. (Recent Trends in Nickel Laterite Technology, Bruce Wedderburn, Malachite Process Consulting [September 2005].) The type of resources in the ground determines the extraction technology. Thus, the limonite variety of laterite resources will typically require a hydrometallurgical extraction process, such as the high-pressure acid leach process (HPAL), while pyrometallurgy is usually employed for saprolite laterite resources. Pyrometallurgy is the predominant technology used for the extraction of sulphide resources. (Developments in the nickel market and implications for sulphur and sulphuric acid consumption, Vanessa Davidson, CRU Analysis. Paper presented at Sulphur 2008, Rome.)

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Boosting selectivity

Summary

The development and performance testing of ProCAP, an amine-based technology for selective H2S removal, is complete. The new technology, ProPure reduces solvent circulation compared to conventional technology. Potential markets for ProCAP include offshore sour gas treatment and refinery off-gas treatment.

Abstract

ProPure, in co-operation with joint industry project (JIP) partners StatoilHydro, Total, ConocoPhillips and Gaz de France, has developed an amine based technology ProCAP (ProPure Compact Alkanolamine Plant) for selective H2S removal in the presence of CO2, based on the novel co-current ProPure gas-liquid contactor and a regenerative solvent.

The key technology of ProCAP is the ProPure co-current contactor, which is a gas flow driven one-shot contactor. The co-current contactor replaces the counter-current contactor tower in a conventional amine plant. The small solvent liquid drop­lets generated promote a high gas-liquid mass transfer rate at low to intermediate pressure drops. ProCAP’s selectivity is achieved by short retention time in the contactor combined with the high gas-solvent exposure area throughout the contactor.

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Elemental boost to food production

Summary

Shell is breaking fresh ground in the agricultural business with technology that raises the performance of modern, conventional ammonium phosphate-based fertilizers through the effective inclusion of elemental sulphur.

Abstract

It is clear that balancing energy supply with increasing energy demand, while simultaneously preventing damage to the world’s climate, is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. Another epic challenge, and it is related in some ways, is simply to feed people, especially in those parts of the world where growing conditions are difficult and populations are climbing relentlessly.

With these challenges so clear in everyone’s minds, Shell scientists several years ago started to look more closely at the role of sulphur in the agricultural sector. The result has been the development and introduction of a range of sulphur-enhanced fertilizers that are showing great promise in a variety of crop applications in several countries. Interestingly, there are features of the way the new fertilizers work that may also address some aspects of the first challenge just mentioned of climate change.

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Sweetening natural gas

Summary

Technology and solvent selection for acid gas treatment of sour gas is a complex task, dependent on many factors. Recent case studies from Foster Wheeler, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering and WorleyParsons illustrate some of the many options available to meet product specifications while adhering to stringent environmental regulations.

Abstract

Increasing energy costs and growing demand for natural gas have driven the development of sour gas fields around the world. About 40% of the world’s natural gas reserves are in the form of sour gas where H2S and CO2 compositions exceed 10% volumetric of the raw produced acid gas. In some cases the acid gas composition in these reserves is very high and the economics of producing pipe line quality gas are marginal. Natural gas almost always contains contaminants or other unacceptable components, including heavy hydrocarbons, mercaptans, mercury, water and the acid gases H2S and CO2.

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TSI assesses the new global dynamics

Summary

The Sulphur Institute's annual World Sulphur Symposium will be held in the Westin Hotel, Madrid, Spain between 30 March and 2 April 2009. The theme for the 2009 meeting is particularly relevant, as the three-day symposium will address the issue of Sulphur – New Global Dynamics. Sulphur Magazine is very honoured to have been selected by The Sulphur Institute as the official publication for the World Sulphur Symposium.

Abstract

After a year in which market prices for sulphur reached unprecedented heights only to plunge rapidly during the final quarter, The Sulphur Institute (TSI) poses the question that is currently exercising the minds of everyone with an interest in the business: what is happening with sulphur?

The TSI Sulphur World Symposium will provide a forum where participants can gain an enhanced perspective about the global and regional events that are shaping the ever-changing world market for sulphur. The programme will focus on the key issues that are facing the sulphur sector and will cover such topics as:

  • New sulphur supply and demand developments
  • Transportation, logistics and handling
  • Environment, health and safety issues
  • Fertilizers, metals and other uses.

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