Ammonium sulfate is an inorganic salt which occurs naturally in volcanic fumaroles as a rare mineral, mascagnite. It is prepared by the treatment of ammonia, often as a by-product from coke-ovens with sulfuric acid. Ammonium sulfate is also produced by gypsum which is treated with ammonium carbonate solution to give the precipitate of calcium carbonate leaving ammonium sulfate in the solution. It has high sulfur content in the sulfate form, making it easily absorbable by plants, and low pH making it suitable for alkaline soils. It is consumed in a wide range of applications such as fertilizers for alkaline soils, purifying protein, flame retardants, food additives, and for the preparation of ammonium salts such as ammonium persulfate. Ammonium sulfate is one of the most extensively consumed nitrogen fertilizers for crop production, which is considered valuable where both nitrogen and sulfur are required on account of its high solubility providing versatility to various agricultural applications. Small amounts of ammonium sulfate are also used in applications such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals and cattle feed supplements.
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The global market for ammonium sulfate is highly dependent on a number of factors such as the fertilizer industry and the stringent environmental regulations related to it. However, as a major portion of ammonium sulfate is manufactured involuntarily as a co-product or by-product, its volume of production is influenced more by the general industrial output than by the demand for fertilizers. Moreover, as ammonium sulfate is a by-product of caprolactum, the market is highly affected by developments in the caprolactum market. With the growing production of caprolactum in Asia Pacific, potential for interference in the ammonium sulfate industry is anticipated to be significant over the next few years. The global demand for ammonium sulfate is expected to increase in areas with rising sulfur-deficient soils, especially in areas with tight environmental controls such as North America.
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Increasing demand for nitrogen fertilizers is anticipated to one of the major growth factors driving the demand for ammonium sulfate. Ammonium sulfate, as a nitrogenous fertilizer competes with ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphates, and urea. In addition, sulfur is becoming increasingly popular as a vital nutrient for plant growth owing to ability to synthesize vitamins, enzymes, proteins, amino acids and chlorophyll. It has found to be highly beneficial to a wide range of crops such as wheat, vegetables, rice, potatoes and corn. Although there are no major environmental and health concerns involved with the consumption of ammonium sulfate, environmental concern does, however, play a significant role in the ammonium sulfate market. A significant portion of the global ammonium sulfate production comes as a direct result of the necessity to remove sulfur dioxide from stack gases at various metal refining and metal smelting operations in order to meet the requirements of government regulations to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Hence, a large potential source of additional by-product ammonium sulfate production comes from sulfur dioxide recovery from coal-fired electrical generating stations. This factor is expected to slow down the growth of the market. Growing trend towards the development of bio-based fertilizers such as nitrogen fixation biofertilizers is expected to provide new opportunities for the growth of the market.
Amresco Inc., BASF SE, Domo Chemicals, Martin Midstream, General Chemical, GFS Chemicals Inc., Honeywell, Royal DSM and Sigma-Aldrich Corporation are some of the key manufacturers of ammonium sulfate present in the industry.