It may seem counterintuitive, but an increased need for sulfuric acid, a corrosive chemical used mostly in fertilizers, actually benefits businesses and well as the environment. As world population grows, people need to be fed, so the need for crop fertilizers grows to meet the demand. Additional demand requires innovation to keep supplies high and production costs low. Although traditional means of producing sulfuric acid may be able to keep up with worldwide demand, there are alternative methods that are being used that are both cost effective and environmentally friendly.
How is sulfuric acid produced?
Active production of sulfuric acid requires the extraction and isolation of sulfur from petroleum and natural gas, which is necessary for these fossil fuels to be used for their intended purposes. The sulfur then undergoes multiple phases of processing to produce sulfuric acid. Although sulfuric acid is more of a a byproduct of this process, it is still more of an active rather than a passive form of sulfur extraction, because it requires an increased amount of fossil fuel production in order to keep up with sulfuric acid demand, which may exceed demand for the fossil fuels.
New trends in sulfuric acid production use other passive forms of production such as:
- Using sulfur dioxide obtained from the smelting of base metal ores. Several base metal ores, such as lead, copper, and nickel, occur as sulfides, which when heated, release sulfur dioxide as a byproduct. This would normally be wasted, but instead is processed into sulfuric acid. Infrastructure building and the increased need for metals allows both metal and sulfuric acid producers to benefit from this arrangement, and the capture and use of sulfur dioxide gas that would normally be released into the air benefits the environment.
- Recycling of sulfuric acid. New methods of recycling sulfuric acid from petrochemical production plants have resulted in the production of concentrated and pure sulfuric acid, regenerated from used or contaminated byproducts. This is an obvious environmental benefit.
How does increased demand for sulfuric acid benefit other industries?
Businesses that supply parts and machinery for construction and maintenance of plants that produce sulfuric acid or use it in their production processes benefit greatly from higher demand. Some industries are specifically tailored to meet the demand. One example is alloy 20 pipe manufacturers and distributors, such as James Duva Inc. This stainless steel alloy was specifically designed to handle the corrosive qualities of sulfuric acid and provide the highest possible resistance against corrosion damage and equipment or transport failure.