Indian glass industry looks to positive future

By IM Staff
Published: Monday, 03 April 2017

Industry players expect turnaround soon; Modest global glass growth in 2016; Sluggish demand for soda ash

Sunder Singh

India’s glass industry and raw materials suppliers are expecting a turnaround in the sector, which has been languishing for the
past three years, delegates at Glasspex India heard at the end of February.

The event, an international show on the glass industry, took place at Greater Noida, near New Delhi and was attended by about 4,150 trade visitors.

Producers attending the event told IM that they were expecting an uptick in consumption as construction markets start to pick up.

With an installed capacity of 3.1m tpa, Indian soda ash producers have been facing sluggish demand from the glass industry. 

Soda ash, constituting about 75% of total raw material costs, is produced almost exclusively in the state of Gujarat. 

Tata Chemicals

The largest producer is Tata Chemicals Ltd (which is also the world’s second-largest producer of soda ash), which has soda ash plants across India in Gujarat, as well as internationally in the US, UK and in Kenya – the trona-producing Magadi operation which was mothballed in 2014, but was brought back into production in the latter half of 2015.

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source: Tata

Tata Chemicals has synthetic soda ash production capacity of 900,000 tonnes but annual output is estimated at 820,000 tonnes in India.

It holds a 6% share of the global market and 70% of its product is natural soda ash. 

Synthetic soda ash and sodium bicarbonate are manufactured using the Solvay process at Mithapur, India and Northwich, UK, while the other plants produce natural soda ash (trona).

In February IM learned that Tata plans to increase its synthetic soda ash production capacity in India by more than 40% in 2020.

The company will add another 500,000 tonnes of capacity to meet growing domestic demand.

Soda ash producers hit by sluggish glass demand

Detergent is the biggest end-use market for soda ash in India, and accounts for 39% of the total consumption. Glass production follows as the second biggest market at 29%, while chemical applications is ranked third at 14-15%.

Lower-than-expected growth in all the segments of the glass industry has had an adverse impact on the soda ash industry in past few years. As the glass industry accounts for almost a third of the soda ash produced in India, low growth in the industry has affected all the major producers.

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Glass half empty? India’s producers say that the glass
industry is looking up, delegates at Glasspex India,
which was held in Delhi and attended by about 4,150
trade visitors. 

Similarly, miners and processors of other important non-metallic minerals, such as feldspar, silica sand and quartz, are also waiting with bated breath for a turnaround in glass production in the country. 

Feldspar is mined mainly in the states of Rajasthan (64% of total production), Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Silica sand production is concentrated in the regions of Haryana (about 28%), Rajasthan (15%), Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh (13% each). Quartz deposits in the country are concentrated in the states of Andhra Pradesh (32%), Karnataka (26%) and Rajasthan (24%). 

More than 130 companies from 16 countries participated in the event. Besides India, there were exhibitors from Germany, Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France and Italy.