Sulfur Supply Chain - Executive Summary

Sulfur

R

w Material

s

(solid)

Source of Raw Material:

Byproduct of Petroleum Processing,
Natural Gas Processing, and Coking

Derivative Water Treatment Chemicals:
Sulfuric Acid	Sulfur Dioxide

% of Total Domestic Consumption
Attributed to Water Sector:

Less than 1%

BO Product Family:
Sulfur, Fossil Fuels

CAS No.: 7704-34-9

db Understanding Chemical Supply Chains 2 Shelf Life:

60+ Months

 RISK OF SUPPLY DISRUPTION (Assessed in 2022)

RISK RATING: Low

te-Low Modersf

RISK DRIVERS

Price and availability of sulfur, the
majority of which is recovered as a
byproduct of petroleum pro-
cessing, are closely tied to de-
mand for petroleum products. A
significant quantity of sulfur is pro-
duced in geographically concen-
trated areas and the majority of
sulfur is intended for use in sulfu-
ric acid manufacturing, both of
which can increase vulnerability.

RISK PARAMETERS

Criticality: High. Essential for the pro-
duction of chemicals necessary for wa-
ter treatment.

Likelihood: Low. There are no known
previous disruptions in supply, however
fluctuation in production are tied to
demand for petroleum products.

Vulnerability: Low. The U.S. is a leading
producer of sulfur, the majority of
which is used to manufacture sulfuric
acid.

PRODUCTION PROCESS

Water Treatment Applications

Recovery from petroleum
refining, natural gas processing,
and coking

Sulfur

Input

End Use

Water treatment chemical production

Competing Applications

	Sulfuric acid

	Chemical production

	Fertilizers

	Insecticides and pesticides

DOMESTIC PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION, AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Domestic Production Locations (2019):
95, located throughout the U.S.

(^) International Trade (2019)

Primary Trading Partner (Imports): Canada
Primary Trading Partner (Exports): Mexico



I

Domestic Consumption (2019):

9,400 M kg

I Domestic Production (8,706 M kg)

	Imports for Consumption (2,980 M kg)

	Export of Domestic Production (2,370 M kg)

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Sulfur Supply Chain - Full Profile

Product Description

Sulfur (S), a widely used naturally occurring element, is not used directly in water treatment. It is a primary input
in the production of sulfuric acid and sulfur-based chemicals including sulfur dioxide.

Use in Water Treatment
None.

Use as a Precursor to Other Water Treatment Chemicals
Sulfur is used to manufacture sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid.

Other Applications

Sulfur has a wide range of applications. The leading use of sulfur is to produce sulfuric acid. It is also widely used
in chemical production such as sulfites, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, plastics, enamels, gunpowder, and
matches (NCBI, 2021; USGS, 2022).

Primary Industrial Consumers

In 2018, approximately 91% of sulfur consumed in the U.S. was used in the production of sulfuric acid, much of
which is used in fertilizer production. Agriculture, including fertilizer and production of other agricultural
chemicals, accounted for approximately 67% of elemental sulfur consumption in 2018 (USGS, 2022).

Manufacturing, Transport, & Storage

Manufacturing Process

The majority of elemental sulfur produced in the U.S. is recovered as a byproduct of petroleum refining, natural
gas processing, and the coking processes through a series of thermal and catalytic steps starting with oxidation
of hydrogen sulfide. A series of oxidation steps burn hydrogen sulfide with oxygen to form sulfur dioxide. The
sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide are then reacted at a specified ratio to form elemental sulfur. After cooling
and condensation, sulfur is recovered as a liquid (DOE, 2022; USGS, 2022). The general equations for the steps of
this process are shown in Figure 1.

Step 1







Hydrogen Sulfide

+

Oxygen >

Sulfur Dioxide + Water

2H2S

+

302 ->

2S02 + 2H20

Step 2







Hydrogen Sulfide

+

Sulfur Dioxide

- Sulfur + Water

2H2S

+

S02

-> 3S + 2H20

Figure 1. Chemical Equations for the Reactions to Manufacture Sulfur

Product Transport

Elemental sulfur, which may be sold as a liquid or solid, is routinely transported by ship, rail, truck, and pipeline
(USGS, 2022).

Storage and Shelf Life

Sulfur is stable and non-reactive over a wide range of temperatures. When stored properly, sulfur can have a
shelf life in excess of 60 months (Hess, 2012; USDA, 2018).

EPA 817-F-22-050 | December 2022

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Sulfur Supply Chain - Full Profile

Domestic Production & Consumption

Domestic Production

Production data was collected from USGS, while trade data was collected from the U.S. International Trade
Commission (USITC) Dataweb, as shown in Table 1. Both production and trade data are specific to sulfur.

Table 1. Sulfur Production and Trade Data Sources

Production and Trade Data

Category

Data Source

Identifier

Description

Domestic Production

U.S. Geological Survey

CAS No.: 7704-34-9

Sulfur

Imports and Exports

U.S. International Trade Commission

HS Code: 2503.10

Sulfur

Total U.S. domestic production of sulfur was approximately 8,706 million kilograms (M kg) in 2019 (USGS, 2021).
In 2019, elemental sulfur was recovered at petroleum refineries, natural-gas-processing plants, and coking
plants at 95 operations in 27 states (USGS, 2022). As of 2018, large oil refineries along the Gulf Coast produced a
significant portion of the domestic recovered sulfur. In 2018, the leading producers of recovered sulfur were
ExxonMobil Corp., Valero Energy Corp., and ConocoPhillips Co., and Marathon Petroleum Corp. The top seven
producers accounted for 72% of recovered sulfur in 2018. The leading production states in 2018 were Texas,
Louisiana, and California (USGS, 2022).

Domestic Consumption

U.S. consumption of sulfur in 2019 is estimated at 9,400 M kg. This estimate includes production of 8,706 M kg,
import of 2,980 M kg, minus export of 2,370 M kg (USGS, 2021), as shown in Figure 2.

Domestic Consumption (2019):

9,400 M kg

	Domestic Production (8,706 M kg)

	Imports for Consumption (2,980 M kg)

	Export of Domestic Production (2,370 M kg)

Figure 2. Domestic Production and Consumption of Sulfur in 2019

Trade & Tariffs

Worldwide Trade

Worldwide import and export data for sulfur are reported through the World Bank's World Integrated Trade
Solutions (WITS) software, as a category specific to sulfur. In 2021, the U.S. ranked fifth worldwide in total
exports and fourth in total imports of sulfur. In 2021, Qatar ranked first worldwide in total exports and China
ranked first worldwide in total imports (WITS, 2022), as shown in Table 2.

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Sulfur Supply Chain - Full Profile

Table 2. WITS Worldwide Export and Import of Sulfur in 2021

2021 Worldwide Trade
Sulfur (HS Code 2503.10)

Top 5 Worldwide Exporters

Top 5 Worldwide Importers

Qatar

3,099 M kg

China

8,535 M kg

Canada

2,739 M kg

Morocco

6,719 M kg

Russian Federation

1,806 M kg

Brazil

2,328 M kg

South Korea

1,372 M kg

United States

1,899 M kg

United States

1,113 M kg

India

1,777 M kg

Domestic Imports and Exports

Domestic import and export data are reported by USITC in categories specific to sulfur. Figure 3 summarizes
imports for consumption1 and domestic exports2 of sulfur between 2015 and 2020. During this period, the
overall quantity of imports steadily decreased, with the greatest volume of imports occurring in 2015. The
volume of exports, considerably smaller than the volume of imports, remained relatively steady. Over this five-
year period, Mexico and Morocco took the place of Brazil as the primary recipients of domestic exports while
the primary source of imports shifted from Saudi Arabia to Canada, with a much smaller quantity consistently
originating from Mexico throughout this period (USITC, 2021).

5,000
4,500
4,000
3,500
1? 3,000
2 2,500
2,000
1,500
1,000
500
0











Domestic Trade of Sulfur















HS Code 2503.10





























































































































































_




























CO

O
Q.

E

2015

Exports



ts>

O
Q.

E
2016



S Imports
o

/>
o

Q_
X
LU







	Imports from Canada

	Imports from Mexico

	Imports from Other Countries

	Exports to Mexico

	Exports to Morocco
Exports to Other Countries





Figure 3. USITC Domestic Import and Export of Sulfur between 2015 and 2020

1	Imports for consumption are a subset of general imports, representing the total amount cleared through customs and entering
consumption channels, not anticipated to be reshipped to foreign points, but may include some reexports.

2	Domestic exports are a subset of total exports, representing export of domestic merchandise which are produced or manufactured in
the U.S. and commodities of foreign origin which have been changed in the U.S.

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Sulfur Supply Chain - Full Profile

Tariffs

Imports of sulfur are primarily supplied from Canada. There is no general duty for import of sulfur, however
there is an additional 25% duty on imports from China (USITC, 2022), as summarized in Table 3.

Table 3. 2022 Domestic Tariff Schedule for Sulfur

HS Code

General Duty

Additional Duty - China
(Section 301 Tariff List)

Special Duty

2503.10

None

25%

None

Market History & Risk Evaluation

History of Shortages

The majority of elemental sulfur produced in the U.S. and worldwide is recovered as a byproduct of natural gas
and petroleum processing. The price and availability of sulfur is closely tied to demand for fuels and petroleum
products (USGS, 2022). Historically, economic downturns such as occurred in 2020 during the COVID-19
pandemic have driven down fossil fuel consumption, which in turn has led to reduced processing of crude oil,
subsequently creating a very tight supply of sulfur. Severe weather has historically reduced sulfur production, as
many domestic oil refining facilities are concentrated along the Gulf Coast, a region which has historically
experienced many significant hurricanes. The U.S., a leading worldwide manufacturer of sulfuric acid, directs a
majority of recovered elemental sulfur to production of sulfuric acid.

Risk Evaluation

The complete risk assessment methodology is described in Understanding Water Treatment Chemical Supply
Chains and the Risk of Disruptions (EPA, 2022). The risk rating is calculated as the product of the following three
risk parameters:

Risk = Criticality x Likelihood x Vulnerability
Criticality Measure of the importance of a chemical to the water sector

Likelihood Measure of the probability that the chemical will experience a supply disruption in the
future, which is estimated based on past occurrence of supply disruptions

Vulnerability Measure of the market dynamics that make a chemical market more or less resilient to
supply disruptions

The individual parameter rating is based on evaluation of one or more attributes of the chemical or its supply
chain. The ratings and drivers for these three risk parameters are shown below in Table 4.

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Sulfur Supply Chain - Full Profile

Table 4. Supply Chain Risk Evaluation for Sulfur

Risk Parameter Ratings and Drivers





1

1 Criticality High

1 Likelihood Low

1 Vulnerability Low 1

Sulfur is essential to production of all
sulfur-based water treatment
chemicals.

There were no notable disruptions in
the supply of sulfur between 2000
and 2022. However, there have been
fluctuations in production and
subsequent price increases due to
decreased production of sulfur as a
byproduct of fossil fuel refining.

The U.S. produces large quantities of
sulfur, which reduces vulnerability.
However, a significant quantity of
sulfur is produced in geographically
concentrated areas which can
increase vulnerability.

Risk Rating: Low

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References

EPA, 2022. Understanding Water Treatment Chemical Supply Chains and the Risk of Disruptions, retrieved
from https://www.epa.gov/waterutilitvresponse/risk-disruptions-supplv-water-treatment-chemicals

Hess Corporation, 2012. Safety Data Sheet for Sulfur, retrieved from https://www.hess.com/docs/us-safety-
data-sheets/sulfur.pdf?sfvrsn=2

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2021. PubChem Compound Summary for CID
5362487, Sulfur, retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sulfur

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2018. Technical Report: Elemental Sulfur, retrieved from

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/lementalSulfurCropsTechnicalReport2018.pdf

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2022. Sulfur Recovery and Tail Gas Treating, retrieved from
https://netl.doe.gov/research/coal/energy-svstems/gasification/gasifipedia/sulfur-recoverv

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 2021. Mineral commodity Summaries for Sulfur, retrieved from
https://pubs.usgs.gov/periodicals/mcs2021/mcs2021-sulfur.pdf

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 2022. 2018 Minerals Yearbook: Sulfur, retrieved from
https://pubs.usgs.gov/mvb/voll/2018/mvbl-2018-sulfur.pdf

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), 2021. USITC DataWeb, retrieved from
https://dataweb.usitc.gov/

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), 2022. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Search, retrieved from
https://hts.usitc.gov/

World Integrated Trade Solutions (WITS), 2022. Trade Statistics by Product (HS 6-digit), retrieved from
https://wits.worldbank.org/trade/countrv-bvhs6product.aspx?lang=en#void

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