US soda ash Oct exports hit new levels; Nov output lowers

23 January 2014 20:41 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US soda ash exports hit a record high in October and production kept to a record pace in November, according to data released on Thursday from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Exports rose sharply to the highest volumes for any month so far recorded for 2013, up more than 23% to 619,000 tonnes in October from 502,000 tonnes in September, according to the USGS figures.

Export data trail production data by one month.

Exports volumes were up 19% year over year from October 2012, the USGS said.

Production decreased slightly in November but stayed on a record pace, according to the USGS data. Production fell about 4% in November from October but remained about 2% above the 2012 November level.

The 957,000 tonnes produced in November was down slightly from the 1m tonnes of October output but kept the US industry on track to likely surpass 2008’s production record.

US producers shoved 10.5m tonnes out of their doors during the first 11 months of 2013 and only need 800,000 tonnes to match the record 11.3m tonnes produced in 2008.

US stocks on hand rose slightly to 355,000 tonnes November from the 347,000 tonnes in October, according to the USGS.

Mexico remained the top export destination by far, with 78,300 tonnes shipped there in October. Indonesia was second, taking 45,500 tonnes; Brazil third with 39,100 tonnes; Chile fourth with 37,300 tonnes; and Australia rounded out the top five with 33,500 tonnes.

Other significant players included Spain (29,800 tonnes), Belgium (28,400 tonnes), Vietnam (28,100 tonnes), Thailand (26,900 tonnes), Canada (26,100 tonnes) and Tunisia (24,000 tonnes).

Exports have become increasingly important for the US industry since 2010 when half of the sales of US natural soda ash went to export markets. They have grown since, mostly because the US enjoys a production cost advantage through the processing of the naturally occurring mineral trona, an ore that is formed and accumulates in dry lake beds.

The majority of US production resides in the Green River Basin of southwestern Wyoming, but significant amounts are also mined near Trona, California.

Almost half of soda ash production goes to the manufacture of glass containers and flat glass for construction. Other markets include chemicals, detergents, water treatment and food preparation.

Major US producers include FMC Wyoming, Solvay Soda Ash, Tata Chemicals (Soda Ash) North America, OCI Wyoming and Searles Valley Minerals.

By Bill Bowen