The direct sulfation of limestone was studied in a laboratory fixed-bed reactor. It is found that the direct sulfation of limestone involves nucleation and crystal grain growth of the solid product (anhydrite). At 823 K and at low-conversions (less than about 0.5 %), the influences of SO2, O-2 and CO2 on the direct sulfation of limestone corresponds to apparent reaction orders of about 0.2, 0.2 and -0.5, respectively. Water is observed to promote the sulfation reaction and increase the apparent reaction orders of SO2 and O-2. The influence of O-2 at high O-2 concentrations (> about 15 %) becomes negligible. In the temperature interval from 723 K to 973 K, an apparent activation energy of about 104 kJ/mol is observed for the direct sulfation of limestone. At low temperatures and low conversions, the sulfation process is most likely under mixed control by chemical reaction and solid-state diffusion. The nucleation and crystal grain growth of the solid product, and this mixed control mechanism provide satisfactory explanations of the various phenomena related to the direct sulfation of limestone, such as porosity in the product layer, the variation of the apparent reaction orders of SO2, O-2 and CO2 with reaction conditions and the influence of water. (c) 2007 American Institute of Chemical Engineers.