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The word “crisis” has recently become perhaps one of the most mentioned in the daily news bulletins. After all, the crisis has recently affected a variety of areas of human activity. It is most acutely felt in the energy, food and even semiconductor markets. Moreover, as practice shows, one problem entails another. A recent study by British scientists confirms this. According to them, in the near future humanity may face another global problem. And, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, it is associated with the gradual abandonment of fossil energy resources. The fact is that a decrease in the consumption of oil and oil products will lead to a shortage of sulfur. But why is it so important for humanity and what threatens sulfur deficiency in the world?
How sulfur deficiency is associated with the rejection of petroleum products
Gas and oil contain a large amount of sulfur – a few percent by weight.
Therefore, before using oil or gas, they must be purified from sulfur. If this is not done, a huge amount of sulfur dioxide, a poisonous gas that poisons the air, will be released into the atmosphere. This is such an aggressive substance that even equipment at oil refineries fails upon contact with it.
As you may have guessed, sulfur is a by-product of petroleum production and gas purification. About 70 million tons of sulfur are produced annually in the world. Therefore, at present it is cheap and is not even consumed in full. In warehouses, whole mountains of a yellow color gradually grow. However, if the production of petroleum products decreases, the surplus of sulfur will gradually turn into its deficit.
Why does humanity need sulfur
Declines in oil and gas consumption will lead to an even worse food crisis than expected, according to University College London staff in the Geographical Journal . The fact is that sulfur is the main raw material for the production of sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is used for the production of fertilizers, which are so necessary for mankind.
If there is a shortage of fertilizers in the world, crop yields will fall. This, in turn, will lead not only to a significant rise in the price of products, but also to an increase in the area of arable land. We recently talked about how our planet is already gradually turning into a giant farm.
What will sulfur deficiency mean for humanity?
In order to increase the area of arable land, humanity will have to sacrifice forests, wild meadows, nature reserves, etc. This will lead to even greater problems related to climate change. In addition, it should be taken into account that with the growth of areas sown with agricultural crops, it will be necessary to increase water consumption. In conditions when this resource is already not enough, it will be almost impossible to provide irrigation for all fields. For example, in the United States this year, some states will have to abandon the irrigation of fields due to a drop in the water level in the Colorado River.
At the same time, more agrochemicals will be needed to protect crops from pests, weeds, etc. The fields will be treated with more herbicides and pesticides. This will not only affect the environment, but also human health. To summarize all of the above, we can say that all the problems that humanity has already faced will significantly worsen.
Is it possible to compensate for the shortage of sulfur
It would seem that if a smaller amount of sulfur will be produced by oil refineries, why is it impossible to organize its purposeful extraction? Of course, it is possible to do this, for example, to obtain it from sulfide ores, or even to extract native sulfur. However, all the technologies that exist today are extremely unfriendly.
Perhaps in the future it will be possible to isolate useful elements from wastewater. However, this technology is currently underdeveloped. It follows that in an attempt to improve the environment and reduce the effects of global warming by abandoning fossil energy sources, humanity may face even more serious problems that offset all the benefits of such a solution.
Of course, this does not mean that you should not try to change something. However, before completely switching to renewable energy sources, humanity still has a lot of problems to solve. And we need to start working on them now.