Environmental concerns — including cleaner fuel regulations — mean hydrocarbon products must contain less sulphur than ever before. Yet new oil and gas fields contain increasing amounts of sulphur. Finding ways to deal with growing stocks of the bright yellow chemical is vital to the success of many new major projects.
Qatar is home to one of the world’s largest sulphur processing plants, in the Ras Laffan industrial zone, which converts sulphur from the giant North Field gas field into fertiliser and other valuable products. The plant has the capacity to receive 12,000 tonnes of sulphur per day, enough to fill end-to-end cargo trains stretching two kilometres.
Sulphur is extracted in liquid form from natural gas that flows into multiple gas plants in Ras Laffan. The sulphur plant converts it into solid granules for temporary storage and shipping to markets around the world.
Sulphur is mainly used to make sulphuric acid, one of the most important chemicals in industrial processes. It is widely used in the fertiliser industry, the rubber industry, and for making steel and pharmaceuticals.
A new use for sulphur
One of the most promising uses for sulphur comes from a Shell-patented technology that adds a mix of elemental sulphur and sulphate to fertilisers. Shell Thiogro technology makes sulphur — a vital nutrient for many crops — more readily available to plants throughout the growing season.
The benefits of more effective sulphur use in fertiliser could be significant: tests on crops by Shell and the Sulphur Institute in the USA showed it can increase yields by 14% on average in sulphur-deficient soils.
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