A simple, natural product used in products worldwide
Soda ash is the 10th most consumed inorganic compound in the world, which has been used for over 5,000 years.
It is a safe, simple compound and a key component in a variety of industrial processes from the manufacture of glass to dry powder detergents and lithium-ion batteries. It is also an important ingredient in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
The ancient Egyptians recovered soda ash from dry desert lake beds or produced it by burning marine plants with high sodium content to produce ashes, which gave the commonly used name of 'soda ash'.
They used it to reduce the melting point of silica sand to produce glass vessels and ornaments - the same basic production technique used in glass manufacturing today. The Romans also used its related compound, sodium bicarbonate, for medicinal purposes and to make bread.
Successive generations produced soda ash in this way until the mid-1800s, when synthetic production techniques were first developed, to supply the increasing demand from an industrialising world.
Na2CO3Soda ash, or sodium carbonate
5,000Used for over 5,000 years
How is soda ash made?
Today, soda ash (sodium carbonate) is produced by two main methods, both of which produce chemically identical soda ash.
Global soda ash demand is expected to continue growing by around 2 million metric tonnes every year, reaching over 80 million mtpa by 2030.
1. Natural soda ash production
Natural soda ash is produced by extracting naturally occurring trona ore and then processing this via a simple process of filtering, concentration, crystallisation and drying into soda ash which can be sold. Today, this accounts for around 30% of global production.
Commercially exploitable trona deposits only occur geologically in three regions of the world: Enormous deposits in Wyoming, USA, large deposits in Turkey, and much smaller and chemically less pure deposits in China. Today, natural soda ash is only produced in Wyoming, USA and Turkey.
2. Synthetic soda ash production
Synthetic soda ash is produced using a chemical production process using either the so-called Solvay or Hou method, in which salt (sodium chloride) is reacted with limestone (calcium carbonate) and coking coal in the presence of ammonia to produce synthetic soda ash.
Synthetic soda ash accounts for about 70% of global production, and is a more costly and a far more energy and water intensive production process than natural production methods.
WE Soda only produces soda ash from naturally occurring trona.
Where is soda ash (trona) found?
Natural soda ash has been found in lake brines or naturally occurring mineral deposits. Trona (a mix of water, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate and sometimes sodium chloride or salt) is the most common and richest source of naturally occurring soda ash.
While trona occurs naturally in a few locations worldwide, the largest and purest deposits are found near Green River, Wyoming, USA and near Ankara, Turkey. To date, these are the only commercially exploitable deposits that have been discovered globally.
We are proud to supply the world with high quality, natural soda ash, manufactured in an environmentally sustainable way, which has earned us green product certification.
First developed at Eti Soda, we are the only company outside China to use innovative solution extraction technology on a commercial scale.
We use this at both our Eti and Kazan facilities. This patented production method injects heated water into the underground ore body, which then dissolves the trona forming brine solution. The brine is then brought to the surface, and pumped to a central processing facility.
This closed loop system is safer (no underground operatives), has minimal impact on the surface, uses significantly less energy and water than other production methods and also produces significantly less CO2 emissions.
Once the brine solution is above ground, it is pumped into our production plant where it is filtered to remove insolubles.
The filtered brine is then stripped and evaporated to concentrate the brine, resulting in sodium carbonate crystallising out of the solution.
This forms a sodium carbonate slurry, and the crystals are then separated out using a centrifuge.
Once separated, the crystals are dried to produce soda ash powder.
Soda ash: Life's invisible ingredient
Soda ash is an essential, but invisible, ingredient in many products which we all use every day.
Over half of all soda ash production is used in glass manufacturing, but it is also used in a wide range of other products, such as powdered detergents and soaps and rechargeable batteries, as well as being used extensively in metallurgical processes, and across the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Importantly, soda ash is increasingly being used to improve our environment and reduce polluting emissions by removing sulphur dioxide and other harmful chemicals from exhaust fumes in shipping and other industrial flue gas emissions.
Soda ash: How it is used
When processed, soda ash can vary in density, size and shape. This flexibility allows it to be used in a variety of everyday products. From office building windows to detergents, food manufacturing to internet cables, some common examples are listed below.
Soda ash in everyday use
Soda ash is used in thousands of products we all use every day.
Over 50% of global soda ash production is used within the glass manufacturing industry, across flat glass (for buildings and automobiles), container glass (for water, beverages and food) and other glass. Soda ash reduces the melting point of silica sand and thereby significantly reduces the amount of energy used (and CO2 emitted) during the glass manufacturing process.
Dry powder detergents
Soda ash is a key component in the production of powdered detergents and soaps due to its high alkalinity and surfactant qualities, which allows it to improve the solvency, and the effectiveness, of the detergent in removing stains whilst using less water.
Soda ash is used in the mining and smelting of various metals, especially alumina products. Importantly, it is also used in the manufacture of lithium carbonate, used in lithium-ion batteries, used extensively in electric powered cars and other mobile devices.
Soda ash has many other applications; is used to control pH in water treatment, neutralising acidity and eliminating issues with corrosion; it is an important component in the manufacture of paper pulp and in the recycling of paper; and dense food grade soda ash is used to produce products like baking soda, a key ingredient in the food industry.
Building & construction
Flat glass for windows
Containers & other glass
Beer, wine, water & soft drinks bottles
Cosmetic, food and sauce packaging
Glassware, dishes and jars
Industrial & metallurgy
Lithium carbonate production (for lithium ion batteries)
Chrome manufacturing & plating
Desulphurisation of flue gas
Water treatment works (pH reduction)
Kitchen & bathroom cleaning
Key soda ash applications
Flux in glassUsage 52%
Reduces the melting point of silica sand. Limited substitution risk.
Two major segments: flat glass (30%) and container glass (22%).
Additives in chemical & metallurgyUsage 15%
Mining and smelting of various metals and minerals, especially in alumina products.
Lithium carbonate for lithium-ion batteries.
Soaps and detergentsUsage 10%
Incorporated in powdered soaps and detergents for household, industrial and commercial applications.
Water treatment, production of chemical caustic soda (lime-soda process), including flue gas desulfurisation.
Customer goods & healthcare
Energy & environment
Agro, feed & food
Building & construction
In addition to soda ash, we also produce approximately 400,000 tonnes per year of sodium bicarbonate, also known as “baking soda”, at our facilities in Eti and Kazan.
Like soda ash, sodium bicarbonate is a safe inorganic compound that is chemically closely related to soda ash (aka sodium carbonate).
Uses of sodium bicarbonate
The main uses of sodium bicarbonate are as a raising agent in food manufacture, as an ingredient in pharmaceutical healthcare and animal feed products, and in waste water treatment.
More recently, sodium bicarbonate is increasingly being used in new environmental applications, including the desulphurisation or “scrubbing” of flue gas emissions, particularly in the shipping industry.