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The changing North American sulphur balance

Summary

North America's sulphur balance is changing rapidly as old sources of energy (sour gas, conventional crude oil) are replaced by new ones (shale gas, oil sands and tight oil) and metallurgical production declines. Sulphur looks at what this means for the largest producing region in the sulphur industry.

Abstract

North America has long been one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of sulphur. In the 1970s the United States and Canada between them represented 60% of the world’s sulphur supply, and although other regions have increased their prominence since then, the two countries still account for 30% of the world’s elemental sulphur production. The United States is still the world’s largest producer of sulphur, with Canada now running third, just behind Russia. As Figures 1 and 2 show, sulphur production in all forms is now almost entirely recovered from hydrocarbon processing, primarily oil and gas (and, in Canada, oil sands), with Frasch mining in the USA being phased out in the late 1990s. However, the region’s sulphur balance is changing rapidly as old sources of energy (sour gas, conventional crude oil) are replaced by new ones (shale gas, oil sands and tight oil). Sour gas One of the major reasons for the shift in North American sulphur is the run-down of sour gas fields, particularly in western Canada. In 2011 Alberta’s production of sulphur recovered from sour gas was just under 3 million tonnes, down from 6.5 million tonnes in 2001. This reduction in Canadian sulphur production by 3.5 million t/a has only been partially offset by increased production from oil sands, and this can be seen graphically in Figure 1. Keywords: Canada, United States, US, refinery

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Regulation of sulphur dioxide emissions

Summary

Since being identified as a serious environmental hazard in the 1970s, legislation has progressively sought to cut down on emissions of sulphur dioxide.

Abstract

Although emission of sulphur dioxide via the roasting of sulphide ores goes back to at least the 16th century in Europe, and consequent regulation on siting such activities outside of city walls, atmospheric emissions of sulphur dioxide in the developed world began to increase markedly during the 1960s and 70s, and although regulations on high chimney stacks prevented this from accumulating locally during temperature inversions, it did serve to spread SO2 plumes from industrial areas over a wider area. By the late 1970s this was a particular problem in Scandinavia, where prevailing winds from industrial centres in northwest Europe carried sulphuric acid-laden clouds to cause acidification of forests and lakes, leading to forest decline and deforestation and fish deaths, and a similar pattern was seen in eastern Canada from emissions from the industrial east of North America. Keywords: Europe, India, China, US, acid rain

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The evolution of sulphur fertilizers in India

Summary

Sulphur looks at India's changing view and the evolution of government policy on sulphur as a fertilizer, the subject of a recent joint webinar with The Sulphur Institute (TSI).

Abstract

India is the 10th largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP, but with a population estimated at 1.2 billion, per capita income is spread fairly thinly, at only $3,693 in 2011, and it is estimated that 25% of the population live in poverty. In spite of its burgeoning high tech industries, it remains still very much an agricultural country; agriculture represents only 7.2% of Indian GDP, but employs 52% of the labour force, and arable land occupies 49% of the country. Improving the efficiency of Indian agriculture is thus vital to the country’s future, and the fertilizer industry is a key component of this. India is the world’s second largest consumer of fertilizer, and the world’s third largest producer; there are currently 137 fertilizer plants in India, producing a total of 18.6 million t/a of nitrates and phosphates (in terms of tonnes nutrient). The country’s phosphate industry has 19 DAP and other complex fertilizer plants, and 82 SSP plants. However, in spite of this large domestic industry, India is also the largest importer of fertilizer and raw materials in the world, as there is a shortage of natural gas (to make ammonia/urea) and very little domestic phosphate rock to make phosphates. Keywords: policy, plant, phosphate

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Sulphur 2012

Summary

A report on this year's Sulphur conference, held at Berlin's Estrel centre in the former GDR at the end of October.

Abstract

The sulphur industry continues to watch for the long-forecast easing in prices as large sour gas projects begin to saturate the market. Over the past few years strong demand, especially from the phosphate sector, has kept supply tight, but a slackening in the phosphate market has seen sulphur prices peak this year. Is this the start of a period of lower prices? Such large-scale changes in the market can be hard to predict, but whether or not the industry faces a turning point, there has certainly been considerable change in the consultancy and market information sector recently, with ICIS acquiring PentaSul, Argus Media buying FMB and Informa purchasing FMB, and during his opening remarks to this year’s Sulphur conference, Nick Edwards of CRU noted the newest acquisition, of Fertecon Research Centre by CRU itself. Market papers The opening session of the conference is traditionally reserved for market outlook papers, beginning with the outlook for natural gas, presented by Ruud Weijemars of Dutch-based Alboran Energy Consultants. He indicated that gas supply growth is likely to decline slightly over the coming decades. From 1990-2010 it has averaged 2.4% per year, but from 2010-2030 this will fall to 2.1% year on year, with increasing production from Africa, the Middle East and FSU (and to a lesser extent Brazil), and declining production from Europe. He took an unusually bearish tone on shale gas, arguing that it may be technically recoverable, but not economically at current US prices, and said that projections have been wildly over-optimistic. However, if it reaches its forecast production anywhere in the world, it will be in China. Nevertheless, there will continue to be a steady shift from conventional to unconventional gas sources. Looking to the much longer term, he foresaw conventional gas production levelling off from about 2030-2040, and following that a decline in fossil fuel production of all kinds. Will conventional sulphur production be depleted by 2050? There are an estimated 600 billion tonnes of sulphur in gypsum, anhydrite, coal and oil shales, but no current economic process for recovering this. Sulphur prices could well reach multiples of current levels from 2030-40, and possibly a return to sulphur mining. Keywords: market, acid, claus, degassing, tail gas, environment

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How to design a sulphur handling facility

Summary

Abstract

At the Sulphur 2012 Conference in Berlin, Enersul ran a workshop on how to design a sulphur handling facility. Approximately 40 delegates took part in the workshop which was presented by Nick Rasberry, Technical Sales Manager of Enersul LP, Canada and Eric Harbaugh, Director of Enersul LP, USA. After an introduction to sulphur forming and handling, the workshop concentrated on the many design considerations that need to be taken into account when designing a sulphur handling facility, before giving the participants a chance to try their hand at working in small groups to design their own facilities based on some actual case studies. Keywords: Sulphur degassing, conditioning, filtration, bagging, storage, reclaiming, redundancy

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Sulphur in the desert

Summary

In many parts of the arid and desert regions of the world, natural gas reservoirs are quite sour, which results in the production of substantial quantities of sulphur product in locations which are relatively remote from the sulphur market. Production and handling of sulphur product in a desert environment presents unique design, construction and logistical challenges.

Abstract

When the development of oil and gas production facilities is considered in desert environments, such as in UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc., logistical and construction challenges can include massive sand dunes, sabkhas, sandy/humid sea air environment, and extreme heat1-3. A sabkha is an area between a desert and an ocean characterised by a crusty surface consisting of evaporite deposits (including salt, gypsum, and calcium carbonate), windblown sediments, and tidal deposits. Sabkhas form primarily through the evaporation of sea water that seeps upward from a shallow water table and through the drying of windblown sea spray. In sour gas treatment facilities, sulphur is recovered in liquid form at elevated temperature. This midstream processing is typically located close to the upstream gas gathering facilities, to minimise the amount of infrastructure exposed to corrosive conditions. Upstream gas wells are often located inland, amongst massive sand dunes. Processing plant site location and sulphur product transportation logistics must be optimised to meet all HSE requirements while also minimising initial investment and long-term operating costs. Evaluation considerations include geotechnical stability of the area, site preparation costs, and the method of recovered sulphur transportation to market. China is the world’s largest sulphur importer, and as such, most of the Middle East’s sulphur product is exported to China via export terminals that load ocean-going vessels. Keywords: Sulphur pipelines, storage, conveyors, export terminal, WorleyParsons, Fluor, direct contact condenser, DCC

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Safe and reliable sulphur forming and handling

Summary

Sulphur forming and handling facilities must be safe, reliable, environmentally friendly, versatile and economic. In this article Sandvik Process Systems, Brimrock and Devco report on latest projects and technology developments to meet these requirements.

Abstract

The world’s remaining hydrocarbon reserves are richer in sulphur than the fields previously drilled; a growing world population uses more energy; and more stringent environmental legislation is leading to more sulphur being extracted. These three factors mean that refineries have to handle ever-increasing volumes of sulphur, and this can present a major challenge. There is a growing trend for companies that used to market their product as liquid sulphur or slate sulphur to install sulphur forming facilities so that they don’t risk having to curtail upstream operations (sometimes costing in excess of a billion dollars) because of their inability to move the sulphur. The efficient recovery, forming and shipping of sulphur is often fundamental to the economic development of new and increasingly sour gas fields and heavy oil deposits. The volatile nature of the sulphur markets further complicates the evaluation of sulphur management options. The selection of the preferred option requires the consideration of a number of forming, storage and shipping options in the pursuit of safe, reliable, simple to operate and cost effective solutions. Keywords: Sulphur management, sulphur solidification, HSE, Rotoform, RS1500, moisture content, granule, pastille, prill

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New main blower for ultra large acid plants

Summary

The single equipment size limits for sulphuric acid plants is being pushed to new levels with the trend towards ultra large sulphuric acid plants, driven by the benefits of economy of scale and the latest improvements in energy efficiency. Matthias Funk and Markus Hueter of Siemens Turbomachinery Equipment GmbH report on how Siemens has responded to industry trends with the launch of a new generation main blower making possible single blower arrangements for large sulphuric acid plants in the range of 4,000 up to 6,000 t/d.

Abstract

Plant designers and operators of sulphuric acid plants around the globe are facing various challenges due to recent industry trends, including: l rising energy costs; l increased competition; l rising demand for sulphuric acid. Licensors, plant designers and key equipment suppliers work on solutions to combine energy-effective operation with high production output and increased competitiveness of sulphuric acid plants. Economy of scale together with an overall growing demand for sulphuric acid, have led to a move from medium size to ultra large scale sulphuric acid plants, which benefit from capex and opex savings. In some cases these large scale plants are even combined to provide mega sulphuric acid complexes. Keywords: Single blower arrangement, dual blower arrangement, blower frame-size, drive power

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Avoiding ash problems in the converter

Summary

During the inspection of many sulphur melting plants, Sulphurnet has discovered that ash problems in sulphur burning acid plants can often be attributed to poor process design and operating procedures. Jan Hermans of Sulphurnet discusses the problems caused by high levels of ash in the sulphur feed to sulphur burning plants and how these issues can be overcome.

Abstract

Various impurities can occur in sulphur, particularly where it is handled and transported in solid form. The sulphur dioxide combustion gases produced in a sulphuric acid plant contain minor amounts of sulphur trioxide and up to 20 ppm nitrogen oxides. Other impurities mainly depend on the quality of the sulphur used. Any ash in the sulphur may lead to deposits in the combustion furnace and waste heat boiler. However, the major part is entrained as fine dust in the SO2-containing gases and passes into subsequent parts of the plant. This leads to a progressive increase in the gas pressure drop and may also cause a loss in sulphur dioxide conversion efficiency. Filtration of the liquid sulphur is the most effective means of separating higher ash contents, which may occur especially in solid sulphur. Keywords: Sulphur filter, sulphur purification, above ground melter, sulphur acidity, lime dosage

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