US soda ash production ticks downward in January

26 March 2014 22:26 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US natural soda ash production dipped slightly in January, down 1.4% to 954,000 tonnes, according to data released Wednesday by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Producers dipped into existing inventories for the month as bad weather disrupted production and distribution, reducing reserves by 40,800 tonnes, according to the USGS data.

The new data also revealed that December exports hit 592,000 tonnes, the third-highest monthly tally in 2013, pushing US producers to a new annual export record of 6.47m tonnes shipped during 2013, according to the USGS. The previous high of 6.11m tonnes was set in 2012.

Producers have pushed production to take advantage of export markets where US natural soda ash boasts a production cost advantage and competes with more expensive soda ash made by synthetic processes.

USGS figures last month showed December production had pushed US producers to a new annual record of 11.4m tonnes. This month, that number was revised upward to 11.5m tonnes of production for all of 2013. The previous production record was 11.3m tonnes set in 2008.

Apparent domestic consumption was down for January, but the annual figures showed that US domestic consumption rose slightly for 2013, a good sign for producers. Domestic consumption of soda ash, about half of which is used to make glass and soaps, has decreased with rising use of aluminium cans and liquid soaps and detergents.

More than half of US soda ash production since 2010 has gone to export markets. In the three years since exports began outstripping domestic consumption, exports have climbed to 2013's 6.47m tonnes, compared with 4.99m tonnes of domestic consumption. Domestic consumption is up from 4.98m tones in 2012.

December export highlights include 99,700 tonnes shipped to Mexico and 75,300 tonnes shipped to Australia. Australia is fast becoming a top export market since the closure of the Penrice soda ash facility in Adelaide in July. Brazil, Indonesia, Netherlands and Tunisia all received more than 40,000 tonnes in December.

For all of 2013, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia were the top export markets for US soda ash, taking 984,000 tonnes, 849,000 tonnes and 644,000 tonnes respectively. Other major destinations include Chile (348,000 tonnes), Canada (308,000), Korea (254,000), Netherlands (251,000) and Australia (227,000).

US producers gained small price increases for the 2014 annual contract after a year of tightening margins on keen price competition in export markets and a slow domestic economic recovery.

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

US SODA ASH EXPORTS (tonnes/year)





















Source: US Geological Survey

By Bill Bowen