(Wyoming Business Report, March 6) – A Green River plant mining soda ash – a key component in glass and chemical manufacturing – will increase its annual production by about 150,000 metric tons, or 330 million pounds by early 2015.
The international company running the mine, Belgium-based Solvay SA, said the capacity increase is necessary to meet growing demand in the company’s U.S. export markets. According to federal statistics, U.S. soda-ash production – which is dominated by five plants in Wyoming ¬– has risen about 15 percent since 2009 while exports have grown by about 26 percent. Only one other active plant in California produces the mineral in a domestic market valued at $1.6 billion in 2012.
“The world’s largest deposit of trona is in the Green River Basin of Wyoming,” a U.S. Geological Survey fact sheet stated. “About 47 billion tons of identified soda ash resources could be recovered from the 56 billion tons of bedded trona.”
The company’s Green River expansion project “is an important step” in a three-year action plan to increase U.S. production capacity by 12 percent, according to Christophe Clemente, president of Solvay’s Soda Ash & Derivatives global business unit.
The company has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add a natural gas-fired boiler to two coal boilers already in place at the facility.
“With this project, Solvay expects to increase annual soda ash production by approximately 14 percent,” EPA documentation stated, indicating the added boiler would provide steam for operations that could be balanced between boilers as needed.
“Just to confirm, Solvay’s Green River facility does not generate electricity now and will not with the addition of the natural-gas boiler,” wrote U.S. spokesman David Klucsik in an email to the Business Report. “We’ll use the additional steam capacity to support expanded production, and to allow for continuous steam availability when either coal- or gas-fired boilers are selected due to fuel pricing, maintenance or other reasons.”
According to a Solvay release, in early February construction began to expand production capacity at the trona mine from its current base of more than 2 million metric tons a year. The Green River plant employs about 400.