Sulphur: block-storage, processing and loading at
Shell's Shantz Sulphur Facility
Next Page: Sulphur prills render
environmental pollution by sulphur harmless?
Weathering of sulphur block at Shell's Shantz sulphur
There are dangers at sulphur blocks that come not merely from
pieces of sulphur falling off the block. It can also
happen that a sulphur block collapses, such as in a more
sophisticated operation than that described in the caption of
the next photo. A sulphur block collapse occurred during
the re-melting of a sulphur block on December 2, 2004 at the Ram
River Gas Plant, where the Quinn Sulphur Handling Remelt
Operations team experienced an incident with serious potential
for personal injury. (Article;
Block Collapse Photo)
More flaking at Shantz
In the background at the centre-right of the photo is a small
gap in the massive sulphur block where a pay loader pushes sulphur into
a sub-surface pit where it is melted for processing.
A sulphur-prilling machine in action
At the far end droplets of liquid sulphur are deposited
on a moving, water-cooled stainless steel belt. In the front the
still warm but solidified droplets (prills) are dropped onto a conveyor
belt that moves the prills into storage.
At Shantz, about 40 machines like that in the photo above are in
use, and the prills are stored, prior to loading them, in two silos with
a capacity of 15,000 tonnes, each.
Sulphur unit train being loaded
The prills are moved by gravity through a covered
loading facility into unit-trains consisting each of a hundred or more
open railroad cars.
At HAZCO's proposed facility for the Lamont County,
initially about eight prilling machines would be operating. The
plans for HAZCO's facility indicate open conveyor belts that will
deposit the prills in an open storage pile with a maximum capacity of
45,000 tonnes. From there the prills would be loaded with a
front-end loader onto an open conveyor belt into an open loading
HAZCO plans to avoid dust problems and conversion of sulphur
through weathering (through the action of
sulphuric acid that will contaminate the environment, by drenching its
sulphur pile with a watery solution of
lauryl sulphate (SLS).
SLS suppresses the action of thiobacilli but is also toxic to
aquatic life. SLS is a known skin irritant. Its effects are
used as a standard of reference in control groups for tests intended to
determine the severity of skin reactions to a variety of chemical
substances ranging from cosmetic products to chemical warfare agents.
Insufficient test data were found to permit drawing conclusions as to
what effect specific levels or amounts of SLS will have on humans when
ingested through contaminated drinking water, although material safety
sheets for SLS state that SLS must not be ingested, as it will cause
diarrhea and vomiting.
Still, the EU standards for drinking water specify that SLS must
not exceed 200 µg per liter of water. That is a minuscule quantity
of SLS, two ten-millionth of a gram. It has not been identified by
anyone what concentrations of SLS could be expected in the groundwater
used by residents in the vicinity of the proposed HAZCO sulphur facility
in Lamont County, nor does it appear that HAZCO plans to put into place
anything that will prevent water contaminated with SLS to escape into
the environment at its proposed sulphur storage and -handling facility
for Lamont County
Sulphur car leaving loading facility
110-car sulphur unit-train leaving loading facility at Shantz
It takes about 6 hours to load one train.
HAZCO estimates that its facility proposed for the County of
Lamont will be able to load such a train in about 12 hours.
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Posted March 12, 2006
2006 03 17 (reformated this page to make it more printer-friendly, added
information on environmental impact and other hazards
posed by sulphur blocks, sulphur spills, sulphur processing sites, etc., and
made various minor edits)
2006 03 21 (page broken up into five pages, to reduce required loading time)
2006 10 16 (reformated)
2009 01 30 (inserted reference to article and photo of sulphur