What is Soda Ash?

What is Soda Ash?

Sourced from underground. Used in products worldwide.

Soda Ash: a simple, natural product used in products worldwide

  • What is Soda Ash?
  • How is Soda Ash made?
  • Where is Soda Ash found?
  • How we mine

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.

How Soda Ash is used

Life's invisible ingredient: Sodium Carbonate, Na2 CO3

The ancient Egyptians recovered Soda Ash from dry dessert 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.

Na2 CO3 Soda Ash, or Sodium Carbonate
5,000 Used for over 5,000 years
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How is Soda Ash made?

Today, Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate) is produced by two main methods, both of which produce chemically identical Soda Ash.

1. Natural Soda Ash production

Natural Soda Ash is produced by mining 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 33% 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 67% 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.

 

How is soda ash made
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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.

Global locations

How we mine trona

Conventional mining

Traditionally, underground trona was mined using conventional underground mechanical mining.

This mining technique has been used extensively in Wyoming by all producers of natural Soda Ash since the 1960s, including at our Ciner Wyoming facility.

Once the ore has been mined using continuous mining machines at the working mine face, shuttle cars transport the ore to conveyors which then take the ore to a central mine shaft where it is lifted to the surface.

Solution mining

First developed at Eti Soda, we are the only company in the world to use innovative solution mining technology to extract trona ore.

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 extracted 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.


More about solution mining

How we solution mine trona

We only produce Soda Ash from naturally occurring underground ore, called trona, which is more environmentally friendly than alternative synthetic production methods, which use significantly more energy and water, and produce significantly more CO2 and solid waste. We operate the three lowest cost production facilities in the world - at Eti Soda and Kazan Soda in Turkey, and at Ciner Wyoming in the USA.

We are the only company in the world to use innovative solution mining technology to mine trona at our Eti Soda and Kazan Soda 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 extracted to the surface, and pumped to a central processing facility.

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