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From recovery to reuse

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Owner/operators of refinery or gas processing plants that produce sulfur know it is necessary for molten sulfur to leave the facility at the rate produced. As global supplies of sulfur potentially exceed demand, knowing what happens to the sulfur after it leaves a facility’s gates can help owner/operators make important business and infrastructure decisions in the future. This article discusses the processes required for sulfur to go from molten sulfur in a rail tank car or tanker truck to being loaded as a granular bulk commodity onto ocean-going vessels in order to meet global demand.

Production of sulfuric acid – sometimes called the universal chemical – is the highest and best use for the sulfur generated by oil refining and natural gas processing because of its wide use in several processes and products. Yet frequently, the industries that use or produce sulfuric acid such as the fertilizer industry, are seldom located in the vicinity of the sulfur source. In fact, most sulfur recovery and production can be hundreds or even thousands of miles from a sulfuric acid plant that can consume the volumes produced on a constant basis.

If there is a facility that can send molten sulfur directly by truck to a sulfuric acid plant, it should consider itself very fortunate.

Getting it there

There are several steps molten sulfur must go through before it gets to market. From the refinery or gas plant, it is loaded into rail tanks or trucks for transportation to a sulfur terminal. There, it is unloaded and stored in tanks, then transformed into a granule or prill by a forming unit and stored in either a covered building or outdoor pile. It is then reclaimed from storage before being moved to the hold of a waiting ship by use of a ship loader. This sounds like a straightforward process, but each step requires several support sub-systems and infrastructure. For this discussion, it will be assumed that a port facility is available that has an existing dock system with mooring for ocean going vessels and adequate draft of 12 – 15 m...

Written by Mark Gilbreath and David Savage, Matrix PDM Engineering, USA.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering. To read the full article, and other great technical articles in this issue, view the full issue here. You can also register to receive a free regular copy of the magazine here.

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