Soda ash is an essential raw material used in the manufacture of glass, chemicals, detergents, and various industrial products. It is an anhydrous white powder or granular material that is available in three grades: light, medium, and dense. These grades offer similar chemical properties, but differ in physical characteristics such as bulk density and particle size and shape (which affect the flow characteristics and angle of repose).
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Soda ash is synthetically produced from salt and limestone through the Solvay process. It is also extracted from ashes of many plants growing in sodium-rich soils in the Middle East, Spain, and Scotland.
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Soda ash is extensively used in the manufacture of glass. As per the U.S. Geological Survey, around 30% of soda ash shipments in the U.S. are utilized for glass production. Additionally, the chemical processing industry accounts for significant demand for soda ash. Soda ash is used in the manufacture of sodium silicate, chrome chemicals, photographic chemicals, sodium bicarbonate, etc.
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Furthermore, soda ash acts as an organic builder in soaps & detergents formulations. Other applications of soda ash include water treatment, wherein it controls pH levels, thus softening water. Furthermore, soda ash is widely used in papermaking. Glass is expected to be the largest application sector in the soda ash market during the forecast period with the flat glass sub-segment dominating the glass sector.
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Growth in the household detergents market in Europe is likely to drive the soda ash market in the near future. Additionally, increasing demand for soda ash in the construction & building materials industry coupled with rising number of water treatment projects is anticipated to fuel the demand for soda ash during the forecast period. However, competition from substitute products such as caustic soda and sodium silicate may act as a restraining factor in the expansion of the sodium silicate market. Rising necessity of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in regions such as Europe due to energy conservation policies, high fuel prices, and technological development may open avenues for the growth of the soda ash market in the near future.
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Value chain of the soda ash market encompasses raw materials used in the production of soda ash, manufacturers of soda ash, distribution channels, applications, and end-user industries that directly or indirectly consume soda ash.
Asia Pacific was the largest market for soda ash in 2014 owing to the presence of a significant number of manufacturers in the region, particularly in China. The U.S. ranks second in the production of soda ash. However, China largely produces soda ash through the Solvay process, which is energy intensive, whereas soda ash manufactured in the U.S. is in its natural form. Consequently, soda ash produced in the U.S. can be exported globally with competitive pricing. Furthermore, Asia Pacific is projected to witness the fastest growth over the next few years due to increasing usage of soda ash in the existing large-scale textile and pulp & paper industries, particularly in China and India. Europe follows Asia Pacific. Soda ash is increasingly used in water treatment and other miscellaneous applications such as flue gas desulfurization in the region.
Companies such as General Chemical Industrial Products Inc Solvay Chemicals, OCI Chemical, Tata Chemicals Limited, Nirma Limited, GHCL Limited, FMC Corporation, Ciech SA, Soda Sanayii A.?., DCW Limited, and Oriental Chemical Industries are major players in the soda ash market.