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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Kostick, Dennis S.
Sodium and sodium compounds,   pp. 835-842 PDF (866.4 KB)

Page 835

  835Sodium and Sodium 
By Dennis S. Kostick1 
 Production of natural soda ash increased substantially in 1979 in response
to a shortage of the material caused by the closures of two Solvay plants
in 1978. Although 1979 total soda ash production was down slightly compared
with the previous year, exports increased 28% to an alltime high of over
997,000 short tons. Domestic demand, however, was down slightly, primarily
in the glass industry. The greatest impact was on the flat glass sector of
this industry due to smaller size and fewer automobiles being manufactured
and a slowdown in construction starts. Total production of sodium sulfate
in 1979 decreased 4%, while imports and exports increased. The industrial
demand, however, continued to decline for the 
third consecutive year. Metallic sodium production increased about 9% from
that of 1978. The quantity and value of sodium compounds produced in 1978
and 1979 follows: 
 Production Value 
 (thousand (thousand 
 short tons) dollars) 
 1978 1979 1978 1979 
Natural soda ash 
Natural sodium 
 sulfate     Metallic sodium. 
 1Natural and synthetic combined to avoid disclosure of company proprietary
 The total domestic production of soda ash in 1979 was 8,252,794 short tons.
Production of Solvay soda ash was combined with natural soda ash beginning
in 1979 to avoid revealing company proprietary data. In 1978, production
of 6,790,300 tons of natural soda ash was derived from trona or brine. This
output was up 9% and represented 82% of the total amount of soda ash produced
in the United States. Solvay soda ash declined by an estimated 17% and its
continuing declining trend is illustrated in table 2. 
 PPG Industries, Inc., closed its Solvay plant on March 31, 1978, at Corpus
Christi, Tex., due to rising costs of energy, raw materials, equipment maintenance,
and compliance with antipollution regulatioas.2 BASF Wyandotte Corp. also
closed their Solvay facilities at yearend citing similar reasons. Combined
capacity of these two plants was over 1 million tons of soda ash, 
which was more than half of the total 1977 domestic Solvay industry capacity.
The sole remaining producer of Solvay soda ash is Allied Chemical Corp. with
a plant located at Syracuse, N. Y. 
 Tenneco Oil Co. began construction of a new 1-million-ton-per-year-capacity
trona mine and soda ash processing plant near Green River, Wyo.~ The facility
will use 350,000 tons of Wyoming coal per year as its main energy source;
completion of construction should be in 1982. Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. brought
onstream 800,000 tons of additional capacity at its Argus, Calif., plant.~
Final completion of the 1.3-millionton-annual-capacity expansion was cornpleted
in early 1979, but startup problems have temporarily restricted total production.
FMC Corp. announced it will utilize solution mining to obtain trona by 1983.
This new technique is expected to add an 

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