Sulfur (product)

Sulfur is a major by-product of oil refining and gas processing.

Most crude oil grades contain some sulfur, most of which must be removed during the refining process to meet strict sulfur content limits in refined products. This is typically done through hydrotreating and results in production of H2S gas, which is converted into elemental sulfur in the sulfur recovery unit. The resultant elemental sulfur is in a molten state and can either be sold as a heated liquid or (more commonly) converted to solid form as blocks or pellets.

Most of the sulfur produced by refineries is sold into the petrochemicals market where it is used to make sulfuric acid.

Processing of high-sulfur natural gas is also a large source of sulfur supply.

Sulfur can also be mined from underground, naturally-occurring deposits, but this is more costly than sourcing from oil and gas and has largely been discontinued.

The Refinery Reference Desk includes content derived from our industry experts as well as from public data sources such as company websites. Nothing herein is intended to serve as investment advice. This material is based on information that we believe to be reliable and adequately comprehensive, but we do not represent that such information is in all respects accurate or complete. McKinsey Energy Insights does not accept any liability for any losses resulting from use of the content.



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