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Soda Ash

5,000 years of use

What is Soda Ash?

Soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate, is an alkali chemical refined several ways:

  • from the mineral trona or naturally occurring sodium carbonate-bearing brines (both referred to as natural soda ash)
  • from the mineral nahcolite (referred to as natural sodium bicarbonate, from which soda ash can be produced)
  • manufactured from one of several chemical processes (referred to as synthetic soda ash)

A series of refining steps are required to produce soda ash from trona ore. First the raw ore from the mine is crushed and screened. The material is then fed to rotary calciners and heated. In this process, the trona decomposes to form crude soda ash, which is dissolved in water. The insoluble shales are separated from the solution and the soda ash solution is treated to remove organic materials yielding a high-purity saturated solution of sodium carbonate.

Next, the solution is fed to crystallizers where water is evaporated, and sodium carbonate monohydrate crystals are formed. The industry-familiar term “mono-process” originates from this process step. The crystals are dewatered and washed using cyclones and centrifuges, and the solution is recycled to the evaporator units for further recovery of soda ash. The monohydrate crystals are fed to rotary kilns where they are dried to finished soda ash. Finally, product is screened and sent to storage silos awaiting rail and truck loadout.

  • The term soda ash originated from the burning and leaching of sodium-rich kelp and seaweed to produce a crude “soda ash.” 
  • Early Egyptians used natural soda ash as a desiccant in the mummification process.
  • The first natural soda ash operation in the United States was in 1868 near Fallon, Nevada

Where to Find Soda Ash

Uses for Soda Ash

Glass The largest application for soda ash is in the making of all forms of glass, whether it is in the production of containers, fiberglass insulation, or flat glass for the housing, commercial building, and automotive industries
Water Treatment Soda ash also is used to clean the air and soften water. As environmental concerns grow, demand increases for soda ash used in the removal of sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid from stack gases.
Food Processing Producers use soda ash as an intermediate to manufacture products that sweeten soft drinks (corn sweeteners), and when converted into sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, it is used in baked goods and other foods.
Detergents & Paper Products Household detergents and paper products are a few other common examples of readily identifiable products using soda ash.
Medicine Sodium bicarbonate is used to relieve physical discomfort. It is used as in inert component in many pharmaceuticals. It is also used in dialysis machines to support patients with kidney failure.

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