Sulfur (symbol S) is an odorless, tasteless, light yellow, nonmetallic element. As early as 2000 BC, Egyptians used sulfur compounds to bleach fabric. The Chinese used sulfur as an essential component when they developed gunpowder in the 13th century.
Sulfur is widely found in both its free and combined states. Free sulfur is found mixed with gypsum and pumice stone in volcanic regions. Sulfur dioxide is an air pollutant released from the combustion of fossil fuels. The most important use of sulfur is the production of sulfur compounds. Sulfur is used in skin ointments, matches, dyes, gunpowder, and phosphoric acid.
Supply - World production of all forms of sulfur in 2007 rose +0.5% yr/yr to 66.000 million metric tons, which matched the record highs of 2004 and 2005. The world's largest producers of sulfur are Canada with 13.6% of world production, the U.S. with 13.4%, China with 12.9%, and Russia with 10.6%. U.S. production of sulfur fell by 2.6% yr/yr in 2007 to a record low of 8.820 million metric tons.
Demand - U.S. consumption of all forms of sulfur fell by 3.3% in 2007 to 11.600 million metric tons, but is still above the 2-decade low of 10.900 million metric tons seen in 2001. U.S. consumption of elemental sulfur fell 3.5% in 2005 (latest data available) to 10.900 million metric tons. U.S. consumption of sulfuric acid rose +4.2% yr/yr in 2005 to 9.680 million metric tons.
Trade - U.S. exports of recovered sulfur in 2005 (latest data available) fell 27.9% yr/yr to 684,000 metric tons, and is now only slightly above the 11-year low of 675,000 metric tons seen in 2001. U.S. imports of recovered sulfur in 2005 fell by 1.1% yr/yr to 2.820 million metric tons, down a little more from the 2003 record high of 2.870 million metric tons.