Market Scenario of Sulphuric Acid and Its Fundamental Uses

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Sulphuric acid is a corrosive, colourless, oily liquid known as oil of vitriol or hydrogen sulphate.  It is used in varying concentrations to produce various fertilizers, drugs, and chemicals. Sulfuric acid is used in large quantities to produce phosphoric acid, then used to produce phosphate-based fertilisers such as monoammonium phosphate (MAP) and diammonium phosphate (DAP). Both use sulfuric acid as the first step in the manufacturing process.

According to the US Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global fertiliser demand is expected to reach 200.92 million tonnes in 2022, with phosphorus-based fertilisers growing by 1.8 percent year on year in 2021. Furthermore, sulfuric acid is widely used as a solvent in the pharmaceutical industry for the chemical synthesis of various active pharmaceutical ingredients. Alkylating agents, commonly used in chemotherapy to treat cancer, are among the most common pharmaceutical ingredients made with sulfuric acid.

Additionally, sulfuric acid is also used as a catalyst in various industrial chemical reactions, such as caprolactam production from cyclohexanone and isooctane from isobutene and isobutylene, among others. Sulfuric acid usually accelerates the reaction process, allowing it to produce the required chemical output more quickly. As a result of the growing applications, particularly in the Asia Pacific and other regions, the demand for sulfuric acid is expected to rise significantly.

Furthermore, the sulfuric acid market is expected to be dominated by the Asia Pacific region. The market for sulfuric acid has been rapidly expanding due to high demand from the chemical, fertiliser, and other manufacturing sectors in countries such as China, India, and Japan. According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, the country was projected to produce more than 92.38 million metric tonnes of sulfuric acid in 2020. Fertilisers consumed a significant amount of sulfuric acid, with over 52.5 million tonnes of chemical fertiliser used in China in 2020.

Pharmaceutical is one of the region's fastest-growing industries and a significant consumer of sulphuric acid. As per the IBEF, India's domestic pharmaceutical market will be worth USD 42 billion in 2021 and USD 120-130 billion by 2030. Sulfuric acid can also be used in oil refineries, automotive batteries, metal processing, paper and pulp manufacturing, and several other industries.

Boliden signed an agreement with Metso Outotec in December 2021 for an expansion investment in the Odda zinc smelter. The deal calls for constructing a roasting plant, a sulfuric acid plant, and leaching technology and engineering services. Odda's expansion investment is scheduled to take place between 2021 and 2024. Phosagro announced the formal commissioning of a new sulfuric acid production unit with 3,300 tonnes per day (SK-3300) at PhosAgro's Cherepovets production site in November 2021.

One of the key developments in the market is: WeylChem accumulated INEOS Sulphur Chemicals Spain from INEOS Enterprises in August 2021. The company will be known as WeylChem Bilbao SLU and will have an annual capacity of 350 KT of sulfuric acid. Nouryon, KMG Chemicals, PhosAgro Group of Companies, Aurubis AG, and WeylChem International GmbH, among others are the major players in the market for sulfuric acid.

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