The Elemental Sulfur Market size is forecast to reach US$7.6 billion by 2027 after growing at a CAGR of 3.1% during 2022-2027. Elemental sulfur is a chemically inert and water-insoluble substance that finds its uses in a wide array of industrial applications. This material is used in agricultural operations, vulcanization of rubber, black gunpowder, and many other applications. Elemental sulfur is extensively utilized in the agriculture industry. It is used as an active ingredient in pesticide, insecticide, fertilizer products that are utilized on root crops, field crops, nuts, tree fruits, and for several other crop cultivation. The agricultural industry is expanding globally and this is expected to contribute to the growth of the market during the forecast period. For instance, as per the data by InvestIndia, exports in India’s agriculture registered an increase of 17.37% during 2020-21 compared to exports during 2019-20. Furthermore, elemental sulfur use is gaining traction in the paper industry where it is used in the processing and production of paper. The paper industry is exhibiting exceptional growth globally and this is projected to drive the market’s growth during the forecast period. For instance, according to the data by the Indian Paper Manufacturers Association, exports of paper, newsprint, and paperboard accounted for 2191 thousand tonnes in 2020-21 which were 1662 thousand tonnes during 2019-20. The strict government regulations regarding sulfur recovery might hamper the market’s growth.
The elemental sulfur market was badly affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Disturbances in the supply chain and shutdown of factories are some of the major challenges that surfaced in the market due to the pandemic. Market players adopted new measures to withstand the severity of the pandemic. As per the COVID-19 response report by Lundberg LLC, the company’s standard operational procedures got altered due to the impact of the pandemic. The company incorporated steps to maintain business continuity that included proper communications with its supply chain. The market witnessed decent growth towards the end of 2020 with multiple end-use industries exhibiting growth. Going forward, the market is projected to experience significant growth owing to the expansion of end-use industries such as agriculture and paper.
Elemental Sulfur Market – By Source
Gas-based dominated the market in 2021. Elemental sulfur is obtained from across the world. The largest source of obtaining elemental sulfur is natural gas reservoirs where huge amount of sulfur byproducts is produced. One such byproduct is hydrogen sulphide which is later converted to elemental sulfur. As per the March 2021 journal by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), natural gas extracted from Qatar’s North Field contains hydrogen sulphide which is converted to elemental sulfur through the Claus process. Such increasing utilization of gas-based source to obtain elemental sulfur is the major factor behind its dominance in the market.
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Elemental Sulfur Market – By End Use Industry
The agriculture sector dominated the elemental sulfur market in 2021 and is growing at a CAGR of 3.5% during the forecast period. Elemental sulfur is used massively in the agricultural sector for the production of several products such as pesticide, insecticide, fertilizer, and repellent which are later utilized on, field crops, nuts, root crops, tree fruits, etc. The agriculture sector globally is growing with increasing investments and production and this is expected to drive the growth of the market during the forecast period. For instance, as per the data by the European Commission, the values of the agricultural industries in Spain (+1.1%) and Poland (+1.9%) increased in 2020. Similarly, as per the 2021 data by trade.gov, agricultural exports to Vietnam by the US increased by 40% in value in the last five years. Such massive growth in the agriculture sector globally is expected to stimulate the higher requirement of elemental sulfur which will drive the market’s growth during the forecast period.
Elemental Sulfur Market – By Geography
The Asia-Pacific region held the largest market share in the elemental sulfur market, up to 32%. This high demand for elemental sulfur is attributed to expanding agriculture sector in the region. Elemental sulfur is extensively used in the region’s agriculture sector. It is utilized as an active ingredient in pesticide, insecticide, fertilizer products that are used on root crops, field crops, nuts, tree fruits, and many other agricultural products. The agriculture sector is growing in the region with increasing production and processing of food products and this is expected to further increase the demand for elemental sulfur during the forecast period. For instance, as per the data by India Brand Equity Foundation, the total food grain production in India was recorded at 296.65 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2020, up by 11.44 million tonnes compared with 285.21 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2019. Similarly, as per the March 2021 report by eastasiaforum.org, the Japanese government announced the plan to expand agricultural exports from US$ 8.5 billion in 2020 to US$ 18.5 billion by 2025. Such massive growth in the region’s agriculture sector is expected to increase the higher demand for elemental sulfur during the forecast period.
Elemental Sulfur Market Drivers
Expanding paper industry will drive the market’s growth
The paper industry is one of the most important markets for elemental sulfur. This material is used in the processing of pulp to produce high-quality paper. The paper industry is exhibiting significant growth globally and this is projected to drive the market’s growth during the forecast period. For instance, as per the September 2021 report by Maine Forest Products Council, the pulp and paper industry will be on a progressive track in the coming years with a CAGR of 2% annually. Similarly, as per the November 2021 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), paper and paperboard production will expand 1.5% annually to 2030. Such expansion in the paper industry globally is expected to increase the use of elemental sulfur, contributing to the growth of the market during the forecast period.
Growing agriculture sector will drive the market’s growth
Elemental sulfur is used in a wide range of applications, ranging from paper production to black gunpowder formulation and chemical refining. Agricultural applications drive the highest uses of elemental sulfur owing to the vast array of functionalities. Elemental sulfur finds its extensive use in the agriculture sector where it is utilized in the production of insecticides, fertilizers, and pesticide products. These products are later incorporated for the cultivation of several agricultural goods such as nuts, root crops, field crops, tree fruits, etc. The agriculture sector is showing a robust growth rate with increasing production and investments and this is expected to drive the market’s growth during the forecast period. For instance, as per the data by Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, the revenue of farmers from the sale of agricultural commodities accounted for a record US$ 68.7 billion. Similarly, as per the data by India Brand Equity Foundation, India’s horticulture crop production reached a record 331.05 million metric tonnes in 2020-21, an increase of 10.5 million metric tonnes over the fiscal year 2020. This huge growth in the agriculture sector is expected to augment the higher requirement of elemental sulfur, driving the market’s growth during the forecast period.
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Elemental Sulfur Market Challenges
The strict regulations regarding sulfur recovery might hamper the market’s growth
The sulfur recovery is associated with the emission of unwanted hydrogen sulphide and sulfur dioxide emissions which is a key challenge and this might hamper the market’s growth during the forecast period. Sulfur recovery deals with converting hydrogen sulphide, a byproduct during natural gas processing, into elemental sulfur. The conversion is done through the Claus process where sometimes due to inefficient conversion, lower sulfur is processed and recovered, leading to the emission of hydrogen sulphide and sulfur dioxide which is hazardous for the environment. Various governing bodies strictly monitor the conversion process of sulphur. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency of the US monitors the sulfur recovery process and sulfur dioxide emissions. Such regulations regarding sulfur recovery might affect the market’s growth during the forecast period.
Elemental Sulfur Market Industry Outlook
Investment in R&D activities, acquisitions, product and technology launches are key strategies adopted by players in the elemental sulfur market. Major players in the elemental sulfur market are:
Montana Sulphur & Chemical Company
Flint Hills Resources, LLC
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
Motiva Enterprises, LLC
In June 2021, Northern Nutrients announced its plan to build a new facility for the production of enhanced urea fertilizer using elemental sulfur through Shell Thiogro technology. This manufacturing facility is expected to be operational in 2022, allowing the company to produce its own form of elemental sulfur urea fertilizer in Canada.
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Gas-based elemental sulfur dominated the market in 2021. The preference for utilizing natural gas reservoirs for extracting sulfur is increasing, making gas-based the most common source of elemental sulfur.
The paper industry is projected to drive the market’s growth during the forecast period. For instance, as per the September 2021 report by Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC), the paper and pulp industry in China will be on a progressive track in the coming years.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to witness the highest demand for elemental sulfur during the forecast period owing to the expanding agriculture sector in the region. For instance, as per the data by InvestIndia, Agri commodities exports displayed an increase of 23.24% during March-June 2020 witnessing an export of US$ 341.91 against the export of US$ 277.45 during the same period in 2019.
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