Sulfur in West Texas, its geology and economics
Sulfur, along with salt, coal, and limestone, is one of the basic raw materials of the chemical industry. A nation's per capita sulfur consumption is a reliable index to its chemical production and a rough index to its standard of living. Sulfur, with its many properties, has literally hundreds of uses; most is used in the manufacture of fertilizers, fibers, papers, pigments, pharmaceuticals, and explosives.Sulfur or brimstone is one of the oldest elements known to man. It was used more than 4,000 years ago in rituals of sacrifice and as a bleaching agent for cotton. The Chinese, around 500 B.C., used sulfur as an ingredient in gunpowder. Arabian alchemists are thought to have discovered sulfuric acid in the 8th Century while trying to convert sulfur to gold. Sulfur became commercially important in 1791 with the development of the Leblanc soda ash process in France (Ambrose, 1965, p. 901). The sulfuric acid industry, which began in the United States near the end of the 18th Century, now uses about 87 percent of the total production. Sulfur plays an increasingly vital role in American industry and agriculture. The 1966 sulfur shortage motivated are evaluation of West Texas geologic and economic potential for sulfur production and a re-examination of its lengthy but spasmodic sulfur history.