Sulfuric acid is referenced in....
With reductions in demand for locally manufactured superphosphate fertiliser, production of sulfuric acid has fallen to one-half the level of 1980. A shutdown of sulfuric acid capacity, that was based on the use of imported elemental sulfur, was furthered by increasing acid production at non-ferrous metal smelters. The establishment of new smelter acid projects is reinforcing the trend away from using imported sulfur.
The move to smelter-sourced acid is being driven by environmental improvements promoting the clean-up and recovery of sulfur dioxide in smelter off-gases to produce sulfuric acid. The acid was produced for the merchant acid market, as a stand-alone product or for downstream operations. The most notable being the Queensland WMC plant phosphate fertiliser plant helped by the ability to increase metal production as well as the potential value of the sulfur dioxide which is driving the conversion of sulfur dioxide ahead of environmental controls.
The closure of all fertiliser phosphoric acid plants and the cutbacks in single superphosphate production capacity, has led to a near total shutdown of the sulfur-burning (old and obsolete technology) sulfuric acid operations that were integrated with the phosphate fertiliser manufacturing industry.
With sulfuric acid consumption down by 50 per cent, the significance of smelter acid output has trebled from 25 per cent in 1980 to 75 per cent in 1997. Of the ten production units, CSBP in Western Australia was the last to remain in production and now imports the acid. By year 2000, sulfuric acid capacity is anticipated to rise to 3.8 Mtpa - all from non ferrous metal production.
Major producers of smelter acid are at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and three new east coast projects and expansions at Roxby Downs, South Australia and at Risdon, Tasmania.
InterAcid? Two 10 000-tonne storage tanks at the smelter, 52-tonne capacity rail tanks and 70 000 tonnes of storage at Kwinana (owned by Coogee Chemicals) provided to import acid for Wesfarmers CSBP but most is exported given the high cost of coastal shipping under national flag vessels. A storage facility is owned by Coogee Chemicals at Port Hedland.
The Korea Zinc smelter at Townsville, Queensland, will have a 350 000 tpa sulfuric acid plant capable of supplying merchant grade acid for Queensland Phosphate's requirements for the manufacture of phosphoric acid.
The largest new production will be at Mt Isa for the WMC phosphate project involving 1.2Mtpa of sulfuric acid.
There is also expansion of sulfuric acid capacity at Pasminco's Risdon, Tasmania zinc smelter following changed procedures that avoids the dumping of waste at sea.
Australia will therefore become a major exporter of sulfuric acid in consequence of these changes.
Australia imports manganese sulfate (mainly from China) which is used as a feed supplement in stock feed and fertiliser with a value from A$750 per tonne. A subsidiary of Sovereign Resources announced (April 1999) plans to manufacture 20 000 tpa of manganese sulphate from a deposit 320 km south-east of Port Hedland where there is a 1.4 million tonne deposit with an average grade of 25 per cent manganese. To cost A$12.5 million.
Manganese is currently mined by BHP at Groote Eyland in the Northern Territory producing 1.7 million tonnes [capacity 2.4 million tonnes] of which 30 per cent was used by BHP including its Bell Bay Tasmania plant producing 220,000 tonnes of ferro alloy.) It would use imported sulfur.
Australia also manufactures electrolytic grade manganese dioxide at Newcastle NSW.
HiTec (formerly Sovereign Resources NL), which is developing a $78 mill, 20 000tonne /year electrolytic manganese dioxide plant at Port Hedland and expects this market to grow by 8 per cent/year. HiTec Resources said that it would buy the ore feed for its proposed 15 kt/year electrolytic manganese dioxide and 10 kt/year manganese sulphate plant at Port Hedland, WA; the company has a contract with Consolidated Minerals to take at least 45 kt/year of unbeneficiated fine ore (subject to tests) from its Woodie Woodie, WA mine. This material is highly regarded because it is low in phosphorus and iron, and contains moderate amounts of silica, which makes it ideal for blending.
Consolidated Minerals operates the Woodie Woodie manganese mine and the Coobina chromite mine in Western Australia. Production at Woodie Woodie was 2002/03 620,000 wet tonnes. Its Coobina mine in 2003 produced 76,000 wet tonnes.
The world market for electrolytic grade manganese dioxide is 250 000 tonnes per year largely for alkaline dry cell batteries. The market is controlled by four groups; Samancor, Eramet, CVRD and Assmag.
Notes on Western Australia
The Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) gold ore roaster at Gidji (north of Kalgoorlie, and downwind from residential areas), is not subject to an imposed reduction (producing the equivalent of about 100 000 tonnes of sulfur, or if converted, 300 000 tonnes as sulfuric acid).
The sulfur dioxide could also have been reduced to elemental sulfur (using the Claus process). Though an additional processing cost, elemental sulfur is cheaper and safer to transport than sulfuric acid which contains two-thirds by weight of water and oxygen (from air). The additional cost of processing sulfur dioxide to sulfur, is partly offset by savings in transport and storage costs. Expressed on a tonne of sulfuric acid, transport savings using sulfur in place of the acid could save about $25 per tonne (helped by using a shipping box costing say $10 000 instead of a special container for the acid costing five times that amount). The process would be helped by the availability of North West natural gas available by the new Goldfields pipeline. However the gas, though cheaper than other energy sources in the region, has a pipeline overhead charge of around A$3.20 per gigajoule c.f. A$1.20 for gas at Kwinana (south of Perth) from the domestic line.
In Western Australia, as in the rest of Australia, the market for sulfuric acid is dominated by its use in the manufacture of superphosphate fertiliser. One part of sulfuric acid is required for two parts of rock phosphate. Wesfarmers - CSBP produces around 500 000 tpa of sulfuric acid at its Kwinana plant to produce 1 000 000 tonnes of superphosphate. About 90 per cent of sulfuric acid is used for this purpose with some 30 000 tonnes of acid is used for industrial, resource development and water treatment purposes.
It is relevant to note that the manufacture of superphosphate from imported phosphate increases the bulk substantially providing local manufacturers a substantial comparative advantage through freight cost savings at least against low analysis phosphate fertilisers. It is also important to note that West Australian soils are sulfur deficient so the superphosphate (containing sulfur) provides a supplementary element.
CSBP purchases about 80 000 tonnes per year of ammonium sulfate (representing about 50 000 tonnes of sulfuric acid) from Western Mining Corporation's nickel smelter. The ammonium sulfate is used as one of the nitrogen contributors in compound (ie. NPK) fertilisers.
CSBP as Western Australia's only superphosphate manufacturer, has been importing sulfur (complemented by supplies from the BP refinery - typically 10 000 tonnes per year) to produce the acid at four regional sites with about two-thirds at Kwinana. The Kwinana plant uses the contact process supplying a higher purity than produced by either the lead chamber process (used at their regional plants at Geraldton, Bunbury, Albany and Esperance) and acceptable for superphosphate fertiliser use). The higher quality of contact-produced acid enables CSBP to attract a price premium over other sources of acid.
In 1992-93, about 80 000 tonnes of sulfur were imported by CSBP costing about $70 per tonne (FOB, though lower prices have been recorded more recently) to produce about 270 000 tonnes of acid (production has been about 50 per cent higher during the late 1980s). Their plants (Kwinana, Bunbury, Geraldton and Albany) are operating well below maximum operating capacity.
Sulfur is also used in the Becher process to produce synthetic rutile from ilmenite. Western Australian consumption for that purpose is about 6 000 tonnes per year.
Sulfur is now imported by Murrin Murrin (Annaconda Nickel) to produce nickel from laterite deposites.
Reflecting the high cost of transport, imports of sulfuric acid have been small, typically less than 20 000 tonnes valued at less than $2m often through regional ports where high internal freight costs from Kwinana offset the cost of international freight. There is no import tariff on sulfuric acid though with international freight costs providing a substantial margin of protection, the price of sulfuric acid is well above many parts of the world (as low as US$20 per tonne ex works).
Other than to simply transport it to the Kwinana region and exports, there are three other potential applications for regionally produced sulfuric acid:
The BP refinery at Kwinana, with a current capacity to produce about 20 000 tonnes of sulfur (by a modified Claus method from sour grades of imported petroleum), is expected to increase production from the current rate of 10 000 tonnes to perhaps 70 000 tonnes per year by year 2000. That amount of sulfur would be sufficient to replace most current imports of sulfur.
The potential increase in acid and sulfur, and the impact on manufacturing activities suggests potential for a range of sulfuric acid-using activities including the production of aluminium sulfate, phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilisers and other value adding activities.
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