Sulphur shortage ‘crisis’ could hurt green tech sector

Sulphur Image credit: SIAATH via Shutterstock

The green tech industry could face a “crisis” due to a global shortage of sulphur caused by the world moving away from fossil fuels, according to new research.

Harvesting sulphuric acid is currently dependent on fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment. However, it is also an essential component for the development of green tech – an industry that is key to tackling climate change.

Sulphur is used to extract precious metals like Lithium, cobalt, and nickel, which are widely used for a number of green technologies such as electric vehicle batteries.

But scientists at University College London (UCL) have warned that demand for sulphur is expected to jump from 246 to 400 million metric tonnes by 2040. At the same time, there will be less sulphur available as global economies move away from fossil fuels.

More than 80% of the global supply of sulphur is derived from crude oil and natural gases. The sulphur is extracted by fuel companies for safety purposes and then sold off at a low cost.

Speaking to UKTN, Professor Mark Maslin, lead author of the study, said: “You’ve got less than 10 years before this resource crisis hits.”

Green tech isn’t green enough

The report proposed the green tech sector move to more recyclable materials, which would reduce the number of metals that require sulphur to extract.

Maslin criticised the wider green tech community for its contradictory behaviour when it comes to the materials it uses.

“If we’re going to have a green revolution, why not make sure it’s properly green?” Maslin told UKTN.

Maslin called for new technology to be developed in the sector to ensure the equipment made is recyclable and doesn’t require the use of rare resources that are at risk of depletion.

“It is not sensible to produce all of this low carbon technology which you then have to dump.”

In July, the government launched the Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre (CMIC) in Nottingham. The centre uses data to analyse the supply chain of critical minerals like cobalt, lithium, and graphite.