The World Soda Ash conference focused on energy transition and the decarbonisation of soda ash, a key glass raw material. Glass manufacturing accounted for 60% of global soda ash demand this year.
**Abridged version, full article will be in December/January 2024 issue**
Soda ash is a vital raw material for glass production; flat and container glass still remain as the top demand drivers for 2023, with 60% of global soda ash demand from the glass industry.
However, substantial investment is needed in green energy to ensure the survival of both the glass and soda ash industry.
Marguerite Morrin (see below), Executive Director of Chemical Market Analytics, highlighted the need for energy transition in her presentation given at the conference.
She said many European soda ash producers were making major investments to transition away from coal, and US producers also had plans to change their fuel sources.
In terms of global supply, five of the top ten producers are now based in China. This includes Inner Mongolia Berun, Henan Jinshan Gorup, and China Salt (CNSG).
The average soda ash production for these 10 producers had increased from 3.6 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2018 to 4.5 MMT in 2023.
The US has access to the lowest cost production in the world, and had projects announced before the pandemic, but some of these were later delayed or cancelled.
Consequently, the US’s soda ash capacity has decreased by 100,000 tonnes since 2019.
Turkey has added 5 MMT of soda ash capacity since 2009, which changed the Middle East from a net importer to an exporter. Ms Morrin said over 1 MMT of soda ash capacity was planned in Turkey and Saudi Arabi.
Meanwhile, India was a growing market, although it still has a low per capita base, highlighting the significant long term growth potential.
Previously, China has added ~20 MMT in capacity, but in recent years it has had a net loss, ~3% less than 2018.
However, Inner Mongolia Berun’s natural soda ash plant will add ~7.8 MMT of extra capacity.
The plant’s first line (~5 MMT of natural soda ash) started in June 2023, while phase two (~2.8 MMT of soda ash) is estimated for 2026.
Overall, world demand for soda ash has increased by ~7.0 MMT between 2018 to 2023; the total demand is forecast to reach 66.2 MMT in 2023.