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Summary

Some 300 delegates from around the world made their way to the foothills of Sulphur Mountain for the major event in the brimstone and sulphuric acid industries, the Sulphur 2003 conference in Banff, Alberta. The opening sessions looked at a supply situation in the balance.

Abstract

If you need to define unpredictability, a year in the sulphur business will do the job well enough. Since the Sulphur conference’s 2002 get-together in Vienna, there has been a seller’s market for sulphur and sulphuric acid, with prices remaining bouyant throughout the following year.

A ‘soft’ market failed to materialise, but the energy industry’s everwider foray into sour reserves fuels a nagging doubt among suppliers that, one of these years, sulphur will be almost too commonplace to price. On the other hand, if one of those oftpromised ‘new’ uses for sulphuric acid makes a breakthrough, buyers could be struggling to find supplies.

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Bact concept improves smelter operations

Summary

A new filter concept based on replacing lead wire electrodes with rigid electrode rods has lowered costs and improved working conditions at Boliden's Rönnskär smelter. Since switching to the new gas cleaning system, maintenance time and repair costs have been considerably reduced.

Abstract

Boliden is an international mining and metal company. It owns and runs mines in Sweden and Canada as well as two smelters in Sweden. Metal recycling is an important aspect of the operations being carried out at the smelting plants at Rönnskär and Bergsöe.

At the Rönnskär smelter in Skelleftehamn, Sweden, concentrates of copper and lead as well as recycled materials are treated to produce a range of metals. In 2002 metals production was:

  • Copper 224,400 t
  • Lead 17,700 t
  • Gold 15.6 t
  • Silver 408 t
  • Zinc clinker 34,400 t

The smelter also produces sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide from gases produced in the smelting process.

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Upgrading virgin acid plants using oxygen

Summary

Interest is growing in the use of oxygen enrichment to upgrade sulphur burning sulphuric acid plants, to increase production or reduce costs. Derek Miller and Uday Parekh of Air Products and Chemicals Inc. describe oxygen enrichment, its application for acid production and the potential economic benefits.

Abstract

The sulphuric acid market has been experiencing severe supply instability in several parts of the world over the past year. This is due to a host of market forces, foremost among them being the reduced supply of smelter acid due to the shutdown of several smelters, at the same time that phosphate fertilizer plants, the largest users of sulphuric acid, are experiencing high operating rates.

The situation is further exacerbated by sporadic sulphur shortages, price increases of this key raw material, and increased sulphur demand from China for fertilizer production. The net effect is an increase in the price of merchant acid and increased interest in boosting sulphuric acid production rates for merchant or captive use.

Oxygen enrichment has been used by many industries to economically increase the capacity of air -based processes. Traditional applications include sulphur recovery, fluidised catalytic cracking and sulphuric acid regeneration.

Oxygen enrichment is routinely practiced to provide additional capacity without the expense of a new unit or a major facility upgrade. There is increasing interest in the use of oxygen enrichment to upgrade virgin sulphuric acid production.

The addition of oxygen enrichment to a sulphuric acid plant can significantly enhance overall profitability when merchant prices are high.

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Partial oxidation of H2S opens up new opportunities

Summary

Promising results from laboratory experiments indicate that partial oxidation of H2S could be used in the future to replace conventional processes for the production of sulphur, hydrogen, ethylene and propylene. Larry Swinney of ConocoPhillips and Peter Clark of ASRL reported on their work to date at Sulphur 2003.

Abstract

The increasing use of sour crudes and gases has developed a need for additional sulphur handling capacity in refineries and gas plants. The H2S that is generated from these processes is typically converted to elemental sulphur via the modified Claus process. The current Claus process, although in use throughout the gas and petroleum industry, is inefficient and expensive requiring a string of large units to achieve high conversion to sulphur. Clearly, a simpler alternative process for the conversion of H2S to elemental sulphur would be welcome.

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Finding uses for sulphur surpluses

Summary

The oil and gas industry is faced with a current sulphur surplus. The potential exists for the problem to be greatly exacerbated in the future if some of the industry predictions are borne out. Despite that it has proved to be incredibly difficult to entice the oil and gas industry into paying attention to sulphur's commercial potential. Lisa Connock reports.

Abstract

The importance of finding uses for sulphur surpluses was a recurring topic at the Sulphur 2003 conference. During the first day of the conference, Jim Hyne of Hyjay Research raised the question, “Why have sulphur producers shied away from building new products for sulphur?” Bill Kennedy of Shell Canada responded by admitting that a lot had to do with the mentality of refining companies. Sulphur is regarded as a byproduct from the industry. However, he went on to say that over the past three years Shell has started to look at products for sulphur consumption and is currently working on two sulphur demand projects.

In this article we take a look at the ideas and schemes proposed at the conference to tackle the problem of a global oversupply of sulphur.

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