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Sulfuric acid

   Sulphuric acid is one of the essential components in the production of many goods: mineral fertilizers, chemical fibers, dyestuffs, non-ferrous metals, rubber products and plastics, various chemicals, and pulp and paper products. The fact that over a quarter of a century sulphuric acid production grew by more than three times and currently exceeds 200 million tons per year indicates its crucial position in the global economy. The consumption of sulphuric acid, along with oil, ferrous and non-ferrous metals consumption, is the key indicator of economic power of a state. It is no coincidence that the largest consumers of sulphuric acid are the USA and China with shares of, respectively, 21% and 19%. Sulphuric Acid Specification and its Production Means Sulphuric acid (H2SO4) is a strong dibasic acid. Under normal conditions, concentrated sulphuric acid is an oily, colorless and odorless liquid. In industry, for “sulphuric acid” stands its solution, both with water and sulphuric anhydride (SO3). At a ratio of SO3 : H2O > 1 such solution is called oleum. Currently sulphuric acid is produced by two processes: nitrous (tower) and contact. Historically nitrous sulphuric acid process appeared first, more than two centuries ago. The essence of it is that in the beginning sulphur dioxide is produced by sulphur burning, extracted from any sulphur feed stock. Then in special towers by mixing nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 nitric acid is produced, and then, by passing sulfur dioxide with water through it sulphuric acid is recovered. Nitrous sulphuric acid process disadvantage is that the maximum concentration of sulphuric acid obtained does not exceed 75%, and it is more contaminated in comparison with sulphuric acid obtained by contact process. Contact sulfuric acid process, appeared in the late 19th century, is now rapidly replacing the nitrous one. The initial stage of contact sulfuric acid process coincides with the initial stage of nitrous sulphuric acid process — sulphur dioxide is produced by sulphur burning. Then in special furnaces, sulfur dioxide oxidizes to trioxide: SO2? SO3. The combination of the latter with water produces sulphuric acid. The contact process is divided into two types: production of sulphuric acid from iron pyrites (FеS2) and sulphuric acid recover from elemental sulfur. To speed up the process catalysts are used (vanadium oxide). One of the varieties of contact sulphuric acid process is so-called “wet” catalysis process. Its essence is that after producing sulphuric dioxide, being not separated with water, it is fed to the catalyst, where it is oxidized to SO3, which is mixed with water on the spot and turns into sulphuric acid. Leading Russian Producers of Sulphuric Acid Currently in Russia there are 37 enterprises of chemical, petrochemical and metallurgical industry, producing sulfuric acid. Their total capacity is 11, 67 million tons. According to the statistics, the largest producers of sulfuric acid are enterprises of phosphate fertilizers production, as maximum amount of sulfuric acid is required for the production of such products. So, for example, to obtain one ton of phosphorus oxide, you need from 2.4 to 3.4 tons of sulphuric acid and to produce ammonium nitrate (NH?)?SO? — only 0.75 tons. The largest Russian manufacturer of sulphuric acid is agrochemical holding company PhosAgro, which includes OJSC Ammophos and LLC Balakovskie Minudobreniya. The sulphuric acid manufacturer list can be continued: JSC Voskresenskie Minudobreniya, JSC NAK Azot Novomoskovsk, Kemerovo JSC Azot, JSC EuroChem, Belorechensk, JSC Ufachemprom. If to perform the analysis of raw materials, on the basis of which sulphuric acid is produced in Russia, it appears that 70% of it is produced from elemental sulfur, which is recovered from natural gas and from the wastes of petrochemical and non-ferrous metallurgy. 20% of sulphuric acid is produced from the exhaust gases and 10% from pyrite. Prospects of Sulphuric Acid Market in Russia Before talking about the prospects of mentioned market, first of all it is necessary to analyze the structure of sulphuric acid consumption in Russia represented on the diagram. Structure of Sulphuric Acid Consumption in Russia 1. The production of mineral fertilizers 2. Non-ferrous metallurgy 3. Caprolactam 4. Other As you can see from this diagram, the lion’s share of sulphuric acid is used for mineral fertilizers production. Therefore, if we will increase the production of mineral fertilizers, sulphuric acid production will grow as well. The last few years the Russian market of sulphuric acid was extremely unstable, due to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. These years sulphuric acid sales decreased by 11.5% to 8.5 million tons. But 2010 and the first half of 2011 are rather encouraging. So, in 2010 sulphuric acid sales increased up to 9.3 million tons. In addition to global trends, Governmental Decree dtd 27.01.2009 On Abolishment of Export Duties on Mineral or Chemical Fertilizers, Nitrogenous contributed to revival of the market. Production facilities wear in Russian enterprises, producing sulphuric acid, amounts to 80% and is the obstacle for increasing of sulphuric acid production. However, the equipment is currently being modified and upgraded. For example, at JSC Ammophos, a member of agrochemical holding company PhosAgro, sulphuric acid plant is revamped. And as a result this company has created Europe’s largest complex for sulphuric acid production with technical and economic indicators that are not inferior to the best world analogues.