Oils which contain sulphur-compounds are subjected to a special process of refining in which cupric oxide or litharge is employed as a desulphurizing agent.
The fuel has, in addition to its duties of deoxidizing and carburizing the iron and yielding the heat needed for melting both the iron and slag, the further task of desulphurizing the iron, probably by the reaction FeS+CaO+C=Fe+CaS+CO.
The desulphurizing effect of this transfer of the sulphur from union with iron to union with calcium is due to the fact that, whereas iron sulphide dissolves readily in the molten metallic iron, calcium;sulphide, in the presence of a slag rich in lime, does not, but by preference enters the slag, which may thus absorb even as much as 3% of sulphur.
In the former case there is no later chance to remove sulphur, a minute quantity of which does great harm by leading to the formation of cementite instead of graphite and ferrite, and thus making the cast-iron castings too hard to be cut to exact shape with steel tools; in the latter case the converting or purifying processes, which are essentially oxidizing ones, though they remove the other impurities, carbon, silicon, phosphorus and manganese, are not well adapted to desulphurizing, which needs rather deoxidizing conditions, so as to cause the formation of calcium sulphide, than oxidizing ones.
7, (2) that it will be fluid enough to run out through the cinder notch, and (3) that it will be rich enough in lime to supply that needed for the desulphurizing reaction FeS+ CaO+C = Fe+CaS+CO.
As desulphurizing seems to need the direct and energetic action of carbon on the molten iron itself, and as molten iron absorbs carbon most greedily, it is hard to see how the blast-furnace is to desulphurize without carburizing almost to saturation, i.e.
Next comes the deoxidizing and desulphurizing stage, of which the first step is to throw some strongly deoxidizing substance, such as coke or ferro-silicon, upon the molten metal, in order to remove thus the chief part of the oxygen which it has taken up during the oxidation of the phosphorus in the preceding stage.
If the initial quantity of phosphorus or sulphur is large, or if the removal of these impurities is to be made very thorough, the dephosphorizing or the desulphurizing slagging off may be repeated.
But this ancient furnace does its fourfold work of deoxidizing, melting, removing the gangue and desulphurizing, so very economically that it is not likely to be driven out in other places until the exhaustion of our coal-fields shall have gone so far as to increase the cost of coke greatly.