Sodium carbonate is an inorganic salt of Sodium and carbonic acid. It is also known as soda ash, soda crystals and washing soda. Sodium carbonate is a white, odorless, hygroscopic, amorphous solid soluble in water and most solvents. It has an alkaline taste and results into a strong alkaline solution with water. Sodium carbonate is often utilized domestically as a common water softener. Sodium carbonate occurs naturally across the globe and can be mined for cosumption.
It can also be manufactured commercially from sodium chloride (common salt) and limestone through ‘Solvay Process’. Sodium carbonate has low toxicity, however prolonged exposure to skin and eyes or inhalation of dust may cause irritation. Ingestion of sodium carbonate may cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache, and nausea. Sodium carbonate releases carbon oxides when reacted with acids or burned.
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Sodium carbonate is primarily used by the chemical industry for manufacturing glass, detergents, sodium chemicals and carbonate chemicals. It is also employed by the paper and pulp industry for paper production. Sodium carbonate is used in industrial and municipal waste water treatment because of strict regulations requiring dechlorination of the waste water treatment process. It is also employed for brine treatment, coal treatment and desulphurization of flue gas. Sodium carbonate finds major consumption in industries as well as households for removal of hardness in water and pH adjustment of water. Sodium carbonate is also used as a catalyst for resin regeneration through ion exchange.
The sodium carbonate market is primarily driven by its demand in water treatment applications, paper and pulp applications and applications in chemical industry. However, difficult disposal of effluents from the production process and stringent regulations for effective waste management might hamper the market growth. Expanding industrial economies of Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa are expected to bring prospective opportunities for future market growth of sodium carbonate.
In terms of geography, Asia Pacific is the largest consumer as well as producer of sodium carbonate. Major industrial economies including China, India, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea are the major consumers of sodium carbonate for application in waste water treatment, paper and pulp and chemical industry. Two of the most populated countries, China and India are situated in Asia. Both these countries are growing rapidly and witnessing rising disposable income and purchase power parity of the general population. This high growth has lead to growth of end use products of sodium carbonate such as detergents and glass.
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North America is another major consumer for sodium carbonate especially in the detergent and waste water treatment applications. In Rest of the World, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and South Africa contribute to major demand for the market, especially in the glass manufacturing industry. Europe is expected to witness comparatively slower growth than other regions owing to stringent regulations against environment polluting chemicals. There is very low scope of capacity expansion in the developed regions of North America and Western Europe due to over capacities, high land and labor costs and stringent regulations. China and India are the best prospects fro capacity expansion to serve the local demand.
The market is consolidated with major players exploiting economies of scales at global scale production level. Some of the market players include Merck Millipore, Solvay, Tata Chemicals (Soda Ash) Partners and J M Loverridge plc. among many others.