Sulfur and Sulfur Derivatives - Industrial & Engineering Chemistry

Sulfur and Sulfur Derivatives. EUGENE H. WALET , JR. Ind. Eng. Chem. , 1958, 50 (1), pp 109A–110A. DOI: 10.1021/i650577a751. Publication Date: Janua...
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I/EC SPECIAL FΕΑΤURE today on a very small scale will ac­ count for sizable tonnages of chlorine before 1965. Caustic Soda Production Concurrent with the production of chlorine are ever-increasing amounts of caustic soda. O n e of the head­ aches of the average chlorine pro­ ducer is the disposal—at a profit— of the coproduced caustic soda. Caustic is enjoying a steady increase, although nothing like that of chlo­ rine. National caustic soda con­ sumption should be in the neigh­ borhood of 7 million tons per year by 1965, plus or minus one million tons. T h e g a p between the consumption of chlorine and of caustic soda seems to be widening. Programs to investi­ gate new uses of caustic soda a r e probably well established by all pro­ ducers. Encouraging sign for caustic soda, but rather discouraging for soda ash producers, is the fact t h a t some in­ dustries seem to prefer caustic soda over soda ash for certain applications. For instance, in the production of alumina some of the new ores re­ quire a stronger alkali t h a n hereto­ fore. I n fact, the metallurgical uses of caustic soda probably show as great promise for the future as any other. Since the use of caustic soda is geared closely with chemical pro­ duction as a whole, there is no reason to believe the caustic will not con­ tinue to have n o r m a l growth with the chemical industry. Soda Ash Production T h e consumption of soda ash has leveled out a bit over the past several years a n d does not show signs of greatly expanded uses. T h e national production of soda ash will probably be in the neighborhood of 7 million tons per year by 1965. T h e largest single outlet for soda ash is in the manufacture of glass. Glass production on the Gulf Coast would have a beneficial effect on the use of soda ash in the area. H e r e again, the inroads of some plastics such as polyethylene could be serious for the glass industry, a n d , in turn, for t h e soda ash industry. T o counter this, the increased use of glass in con­ struction m a y overcome somewhat the decline in bottle glass.

I n 1945 one fourth of the total soda ash was consumed in the manufac­ ture of caustic soda. W i t h the in­ creased amounts of electrolytic caus­ tic available, this use is rapidly dis­ appearing and by 1965 will probably be minor. T h e use of soda ash in the manufacture of pulp and p a p e r has shown a good growth and will p r o b ­ ably continue to increase despite some of the inroads m a d e by caustic soda. All in all, the future for soda ash, although not as bright as for caustic soda, is not too pessimistic. H . G. R O E B K E

Dow Chemical Co. Texas Division

Sulfur and Sulfur Derivatives INDUSTRY'S d e m a n d s will cause in­ creased consumption of sulfur and the source of supply, convenient and economic to the Gulf Coast area, must continue to be the Frasch proc­ ess operations of Louisiana and Texas. Within the Gulf Coastal area, elemental sulfur consumption is estimated in this year 1957, to be about 650,000 long tons, as : Sulfuric acid Pulp and paper Ground, roll, and stick Sulfur Chemicals and miscellaneous

560,000 20,000 45,000 25,000

T h e consumption of sulfur follows business conditions. W h e n business is good, sulfur's use curve goes u p too. T h u s it appears t h a t in 1957, world consumption of sulfur, in all forms, will be slightly less t h a n in 1956— some 14.7 million long tons (world­ wide) and just over 6 million long tons here in the U n i t e d States. Ele­ mental sulfur consumed in the United States in 1956 a m o u n t e d to 4.9 million tons, a n d the rest of the world consumed 2.8 million tons. Production in the United States in 1956 was approximately 7 million long tons of elemental sulfur, of which 9 3 % or 6.47 million long tons were produced b y the Frasch process mines in the Gulf Coastal area in Texas a n d Louisiana, and approxi­ mately 500,000 long tons were re­ covered from sour n a t u r a l gas and re­ finery gases. (In this a r e a are five sulfur recovery plants producing a p ­ proximately 70,000 long tons from refinery gases: Sinclair and Shell

Chemical at Houston, Consolidated at Baytown, Gulf Oil at Port A r t h u r , and Consolidated at Baton Rouge.) For 1965, the projected consump­ tion of elemental sulfur in the Gulf Coastal area is 850,000 long tons per year. T h e breakdown : Sulfuric acid Pulp and paper Grinding, etc. Manufacture of chemicals and miscellaneous uses

740,000 25,000 50,000 35,000

Within the Gulf Coast area the present estimated sulfuric acid plant capacity is equivalent to 655,000 long tons of sulfur per year. Some of this increase in sulfuric acid production capacity will be in the form of facili­ ties for reburning acid sludge, and consequently the increase in con­ sumption of elemental sulfur will be somewhat smaller t h a n the over-all increase in sulfur equivalent for acid production. For 1965—Frasch Process T h e present-day "Frasch process" operations in the Gulf Coast are car­ ried on by several companies. T h e Texas Gulf Sulphur Co., the world's largest producer of sulfur, operating the Fabulous Bowling D o m e , a n d the Spindletop and Moss Bluff Domes, all in T e x a s ; the Freeport Sulphur Co., operating the G r a n d e Ecaille D o m e , T h e G a r d e n Island Bay D o m e , Bay St. Elaine, and the C h a cahoula Domes, all in Louisiana; Duval Sulphur and Potash Co., pro­ ducing at the O r c h a r d D o m e in Fort Bend County, Tex., a n d Jef­ ferson Lake Sulphur Co. producing from the Long Point D o m e a n d Clemens D o m e in Texas and the Starks D o m e in Louisiana. I n 1956 Gulf Coastal plants of these com­ panies produced approximately 6.47 million long tons of sulfur. These companies shipped into the domestic U n i t e d States market and C a n a d a , from these Gulf Coastal plants, 4.5 million tons, and shipped into export markets of the world 1.25 million tons, making a total of 5.75 million tons. Recovered sulfur from sour n a t u r a l gas and from refinery gases in the United States amounted to 500,000 long tons in 1956. Of the above sulfur companies, Texas Gulf operates the Worland, Wyoming, recovery plant, and Jefferson Lake Sulphur Co. operates the Manderson, Wyoming, recovery plant, and just a VOL. 50, NO. 1


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S P E C I A L .

few weeks ago began production at its new Taylor Flats Recovery Plant in the Peace River area of British Columbia. Several of these Gulf Coastal producing properties m a y have become depleted or reduced to negligible tonnage production by 1965. In fact, there are probably three domes with substantial known reserves, and on only two of these are plans being currently m a d e to bring them into production, with few additional areas of proved reserves known. T h e most recent planned project is the dome in the Gulf of Mexico, 6 miles off G r a n d Isle in approximately 45 feet of water. Discovery was m a d e by H u m b l e Oil and Refining Co. and development will be by the Freeport Sulphur Co. Plant facilities are scheduled for completion by 1960. T h e Fannett D o m e , near Beaumont, Tex., is a relatively small reserve, at which location Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. is now building a plant and facilities, to begin operations perhaps in 1958, and the Bully C a m p D o m e in Louisiana, explored by Texas Gulf several years ago, with apparent limited reserves, has an uncertain development date. The Lake Pelto D o m e is a proved deposit having substantial reserves. It is located off the Louisiana coast and is controlled by the Freeport Sulphur Co. Foundation work is in progress, but no plant completion date has been announed. While it appears certain that offshore in the Gulf of Mexico additional typical shallow salt domes having c a p rock mineralized with sulfur and susceptible of economic development will eventually be discovered, there is little knowledge at this time of the proved existence of any such substantial* reserve factors.

W h a t about Price?

Producers' stocks or inventories of sulfur in the United States are just now approaching 4 million long tons, while consumption is at an a n n u a l rate of 4.8 million long tons. This is less than a year's supply above ground in the form of inventory, and furthermore it is distributed in m a n y locations. During the 1930's, with domestic sulfur consumption running at an average rate of 2.5 million tons annually, producer's 110 A


stocks were maintained at a n average level of 3.5 million tons above ground, or approximately an 18m o n t h inventory. Actually, today's known proved reserves of elemental sulfur have a "shorter life" based on current sulfur consumption, and the expected annual percentage increase, than did the known proved reserves of 25 years ago. Sulfur prices are stabilizing, a n d the not too distant future will see justified higher prices for this vital natural resource. Higher prices are not only justified but are necessary to maintain and develop, in the future, a sound sulfur industry in the United States for peacetime prosperity a n d for national security.

A r o u n d the World

Mexico, in the Isthmus of T e huantepec, has substantial reserves of sulfur in places; however, there is today only one outstanding sulfur operation in Mexico—the operation of Pan American Sulphur Co. at the Jaltipan D o m e . Italy and Sicily continue, as they have for centuries, to furnish limited tonnage of volcanic sulfur to the immediate consuming areas. T h e development of the Lacq Field, in southwestern France, where recovery of sulfur from sour n a t u r a l gas has been initiated this year, indicates an a n n u a l production of over 500,000 tons per year, within the next 5 years. Elemental sulfur, to be recovered from the reserves of sour n a t u r a l gas in C a n a d a , offers a large potential in the years ahead. However, planned projects, at this time, do not indicate a production in excess of one million tons per year within the next 5 years. T h e continued search for additional reserves of sulfur, as for all other n a t u r a l resources, must go on. However, discovery of such additional reserves does not of itself cause oversupply. World consumption of sulfur in all forms in 1965 is destined, we believe, to reach approximately 24 million long tons, and consumers will seek additional quantities of elemental sulfur in preference to sulfur in other forms, based u p o n the efficiency of the product and upon the availability, reliability, a n d continuity of supply from the geographic


areas having proved economic and political stability. Accordingly, the consumption of elemental sulfur is predicted to have an accelerated growth (attaining 6.5 per a n n u m in the next couple of years), a n d reaching a consumption of 15 million long tons in 1965. EUGENE H . W A L E T , J R .

Jefferson Lake Sulphur Co.

Petrochemical Raw Materials T H E petrochemical industry has been based primarily on by-product raw materials from operations of the petroleum industry. T h e rapid growth of the petrochemical industry has increased the d e m a n d for these raw materials. T h e rapid strides in petroleum technology have resulted, in m a n y cases, in competition with petroleum refining for these same raw materials, and the law of supply and d e m a n d is reflected in their price. T h e growth rate of petrochemicals is m u c h greater t h a n that of refined petroleum products and will require a slightly bigger slice of the crude as shown in T a b l e I I .

Support f r o m Petroleum Industry

T h e major outlet for crude oil is in its utilization as a primary energy source. Petroleum refineries are operated to produce fuels and lubricants and will continue to be operated for this purpose, and not primarily to produce raw materials for petrochemicals. T h e availability of petrochemical raw materials will be tied first to the d e m a n d for petroleum fuels, and secondly to the quality of these fuels. T h e d e m a n d for petroleum fuels will determine the total crude r u n and thus the amount of byproducts available to petrochemicals. Refining technology will change as fuel quality increases, and the byproducts from each barrel of crude will increase or change correspondingly. Changes in refining technology will be required to produce continually higher octane gasolines. O c t a n e numbers have increased year by year and will undoubtedly continue to do so. Although gasolines are not normally considered petrochemicals,