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Information @ a Glance

General
  • Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash), Na2CO3, is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. It has a cooling alkaline taste, and can be extracted from the ashes of many plants. It is synthetically produced in large quantities from table salt in a process known as the Solvay process.
  • Sodium carbonate is soluble in water, but can occur naturally in arid regions, especially in the mineral deposits (evaporites) formed when seasonal lakes evaporate. Deposits of the mineral natron, a combination of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, have been mined from dry lake bottoms in Egypt since ancient times, when natron was used in the preparation of mummies and in the early manufacture of glass.

Production Process

  • The major drawback of Soda-ash process was its environmental impact with the emission of large quantities of HCl gas and the production of calcium sulfide solid waste which not only lost valuable sulfur but also produced poisonous gases.
  • “Light soda ash” is transformed by recrystallization firstly to sodium carbonate monohydrate, and finally to “dense soda ash” after drying (dehydration). Dense soda ash has a pouring density of about 1000 kg/m3. It is used mainly in the glass industry. Dense soda ash can also be produced by compaction.
  • Soda ash is used mostly in the production of glass, chemicals, soaps, and detergents, and by consumers. Demand depends to great extent upon the price of, and environmental issues surrounding, caustic soda, which is interchangeable with soda ash in many uses and is widely coproduced with chlorine

Function & Properties

  • The Basic chemical properties of Dense soda ash are alkalinity for the neutralization of acids, Solubility, flux to lower the melting temperature of sand for the glass. Physical properties are Size of Crystal is compacted, light and dense and the other natural forms is trona.
  • The Solvay process, also called ammonia soda process, uses salt (NaCl) and limestone (CaCO3) as raw materials. Ammonia, which is also used in the process, is almost totally regenerated and recycled. The main advantage of this process is the availability of the raw materials, which can be found almost everywhere in the world and therefore allows operating production units relatively close to the market.

Application

  • Sodium carbonate's most important use is in the chemical make-up of glass. When heated at very high temperatures, combined with sand (SiO2) and calcium carbonate (CaCO3), and cooled very rapidly, sodium carbonate can be used to form a transparent non-crystalline material, commonly known as glass.
  • Domestically it is used as a water softener during laundry. It competes with the ions magnesium and calcium in hard water and prevents them from bonding with the detergent being used. Sodium Carbonate is also used as a descaling agent in boilers such as found in coffee pots, espresso machines, etc.

Market

  • There are only four producers in the European Union (EU15) applying the Solvay process: Solvay, Brunner Mond, Novacarb , Sodawerk Stassfurt, with a total capacity of 6625 kt/year. BASF has two plants which co-produce sodium carbonate with a combined capacity of 65 kt/year.
  • Natural soda ash production in May was 950,000 metric tons (t), 9.3% higher than the previous month’s production of 880,000 t, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Ending inventories were 242,000 t, 16.3% higher than the preceding month’s inventories. Wyoming trona production in May was 1.5 million metric tons. Total production of chemical caustic soda was withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. Apparent consumption of soda ash in April was 491,000 t, 8.1% higher than in April 2006, and ending stocks were 19.7% lower.
  • Exports and imports of soda ash in April 2007 were 420,000 t and 394 t, respectively. The trends in cumulative soda ash statistics through April 2007, compared with those of April 2006, were as follows: production was slightly higher; imports were 5.2% lower; exports, 8.7% higher; and apparent consumption, slightly lower.

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