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Middle East Sulphur Conference - Dialogue between key stakeholders is more important than ever for sulphur industry
(10 February 2017)

 

As one of the biggest sulphur producing countries in the world – a trend which is set to continue into the next decade, the UAE is due to hold a new regional conference on 12-16 February, which explores the growing role of the Middle East in the supply chain. Hosted by CRU Events - a subsidiary of the business intelligence company, CRU Group, that specialises in the global metals, mining and fertilizer markets - the inaugural conference, which is being officially sponsored by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the world’s most important producers, will provide a unique platform to showcase the importance of sulphur as a vital commodity.  The event will also provide thorough analysis of the entire sulphur value chain.

Over the past five years, the production of sulphur in the UAE has been growing very rapidly, increasing from two million tonnes in 2010 to six million tonnes in 2016. And, CRU predicts that figures will rise to seven or eight million tonnes by the end of 2020. The increase in production is due to new gas fields in Shah and Habshan and a surge in population which has driven up gas demand, leading to a surplus. Peter Harrisson, CRU’s sulphur expert, said: “Sulphur is a by-product and thus is driven by another sector so there will always be potential for surpluses as well as deficit.  However, the UAE has been extremely adept at producing and transporting sulphur efficiently whilst keeping costs down which puts them in a very good position going forward, regardless of the health of the wider sulphur market, which is entirely dependent on other industries.”

The search for new uses for sulphur has been taking place since the 1960s. However, many of the alternative uses that were discovered (sulphur fertilizers, sulphur construction materials) proved not to be widely adopted as over-supply issues were short lived Recently, there has been an increase in the use of sulphur in agriculture, with crops around the world being identified as deficient in the product – the use of sulphur as a fertiliser has increasingly gained popularity in recent years, especially in more developing markets. 

More niche uses for sulphur include its use in construction materials and road construction. However, Harrisson believes the key to tackling sulphur surpluses is to add value to the product through the use of innovative marketing techniques, and believes that the conference will be instrumental in achieving this aim. Harrisson said: “The conference will bring together a number of important stakeholders, including ADNOC, OCP, GASCO, Al Hosn Gas and Shell for lively discussions to ensure that the industry continues to grow and improve with the UAE at its core. The conference will consider how sulphur consumption can be increased locally, how outside investment can support local industries which could lead to a demand surge and how the UAE can continue to drive costs down and increase efficiency to further improve production and sales.”

The UAE has expressed its aspirations to produce even larger quantities of oil and gas, which in turn means that the nation will continue to increase its production of sulphur.  According to current forecasts, the UAE is due to become the biggest exporter of sulphur in the world by 2020.  Harrisson said: “Questions surrounding production have in many ways already been answered, whereas demand for the product will remain somewhat uncertain for years to come.  However, the UAE has expertly positioned itself to deal with this uncertainty by developing the infrastructure needed for efficient sulphur production which will ensure that sulphur will offer a real opportunity to add value whether the global market is in surplus or deficit over the coming years.”

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