Published June 2017
This report covers supply and demand for sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate is a white crystalline solid that is also known as disodium carbonate or soda ash. It is a member of the chlor-alkali chemical family and competes with caustic soda as a source of alkali (sodium oxide) in many processes. Commercial soda ash is highly purified and is sold in various grades that differ primarily in bulk density.
Sodium carbonate is produced synthetically and from natural resources. In 2016, synthetic methods accounted for 74% of production and natural (primarily trona) for the remaining 26%. In the future, production from natural resources will grow the fastest, led by increased capacity in Turkey. The four leading applications for sodium carbonate are the production of glass, soaps and detergents (including STPP), and chemicals, and alumina and metals mining. Use in pulp and paper manufacture is small and declining; all other uses are growing.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of sodium carbonate:
Northeast Asia (led by China) and the United States are the world’s leading producing regions, accounting for 46% and 21% of global production, respectively, in 2016. The regions with the leading production growth rates during 2016–21 will be the Middle East (led by Turkey) at 17% annually and Southwest Asia (led by India) at almost 6% annually.
The leading application for sodium carbonate is the production of glass, accounting for about 53% of global consumption in 2016, with overall growth forecast at 2% annually during 2016–21. Production of flat glass is the leading glass application, followed by container glass. Other glass (including art) accounts for the remainder.
The next-leading applications are soap and detergent production (including STPP production), chemical production, and alumina and metals mining. Pulp and paper and all other accounted for the remainder. These applications are forecast to grow at an average annual rate of about 2%. The soap and detergents industry, including sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) production, accounted for 15% of global consumption in 2016. Sodium carbonate is incorporated in powdered soaps, detergents, and various specialty cleaning products for household, industrial, and commercial applications. It is added in order to emulsify oil stains, reduce redeposition of dirt in wash cycles, provide alkalinity for cleaning, and soften laundry water.
The leading consuming regions are Northeast Asia (led by China), North America, Western Europe, and Southwest Asia (led by India). Southwest Asia is forecast to have the highest growth rate at 6.3% annually during 2016–21. Southeast Asia will have the next-highest growth rate, at 4.4%. The leading application for sodium carbonate in India is use as a detergent (39%) and in the manufacture of glass at (29%), followed by chemical production at 15%.
The Middle East has been the fastest-growing region over the last five years, at an average annual rate of almost 5%; however, consumption is relatively small, at only about 4% of global consumption. Besides the Middle East and Northeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent has also been growing rapidly, at 4.5% per year the last five years, but consumption is only about 7% of the global total.
China accounts for about 94% of consumption in Northeast Asia. From 2000 to 2016, Chinese sodium carbonate consumption grew at an average rate of about 8% per year. Consumption was relatively stable during 2013–15 because of the slowdown in the construction and automotive industries. The Chinese glass market has grown significantly, as a result of demand for new housing, industrial expansion, and rising motor vehicle production.