Published May 2013
This report presents information on seven miscellaneous sulfur chemicals: sulfur dioxide, sodium hydrosulfide, sodium hydrosulfite, sodium sulfide, sodium sulfites, sodium thiosulfate and sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate. Sodium sulfites include sodium sulfite liquid and dry, and sodium bisulfite solution and its dry counterpart sodium metabisulfite. These chemicals are used mainly as reducing and bleaching agents in the pulp and paper and textile industries, as well as in the photographic and food industries, and as precipitating and reducing agents in the treatment of water.
The following pie charts show world consumption of miscellaneous sulfur chemicals by type and by region.
Changes in the pulp and paper industry have been ongoing for some time, but the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 and the shift toward use of the Internet have resulted in cuts to production capacity, machinery slowdowns, mill closures and layoffs. Existing production capacity in North America and Europe has been greatly reduced, while other regions, such as Central and South America (Brazil) and Southeast Asia (China) have grown. In emerging economies, paper consumption is forecast to grow at 5% annually for at least the next five years. In recent years, more than half of the world's new capacity for paper and board production has been built in China. In addition, Russia has several pulp mill projects planned, utilizing its vast forest resources. The hardest hit segment has been newsprint, with more information being accessed electronically.
In the leather industry, sodium hydrosulfide, and to a lesser extent sodium sulfide, are used in the leather production process. Sodium hydrosulfide is used for a less-aggressive attack on the hide and sodium sulfide for a more-aggressive attack. Consumption of these products increases with increasing world leather production. Growth regions in the past five years for leather production were China and India in Asia, and Brazil and Argentina in Central and South America, while consumption in North America and Western Europe has declined.
Production of food is growing globally and the consumption of sulfur chemicals for the preservation of food is growing at a similar rate. Growth is strongest in regions of increasing food production resulting from population growth, with major growth regions being Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, but also in China, where increasing wealth is increasing demand for processed food. In North America and Europe, food production is stagnating and consumption of sulfur chemicals is following this trend.
The use of sodium bisulfite solution, and to lesser extent sodium metabisulfite, sodium sulfite and sodium thiosulfate, has increased for dechlorination, consistent with improvements in wastewater treatment and population growth.
Globally, production of textiles and associated dyeing has been shifting to Asia, in particular China and India. Production in the United States and Western Europe has been declining. Correspondingly, consumption of sodium hydrosulfite in dyeing using indigo and other vat dyes has moved to China and India, and has decreased in the United States and Western Europe. Indigo is used in the production of denim. Similarly, use of sodium hydrosulfide and sodium sulfide in the production of sulfur dyes has moved to China and India, as has the use of sulfur dyes in the dyeing of cellulosic fibers. Use of sodium hydrosulfide and sodium sulfide is being negatively impacted globally by more eco-friendly formulations, in particular glucose.
In the field of kaolin bleaching, mainly in paper-grade kaolin, where sodium hydrosulfite is used, regional distribution of production capacities is changing dramatically. Accordingly, consumption of sodium hydrosulfite in this segment is regionally shifting, with increasing consumption in Brazil. Consumption of sodium hydrosulfite in the segment is expected to increase globally, with strongest growth expected in Brazil.