Soda ash: the year in review
Published: Wednesday, 20 December 2017
A round-up of pricing, company moves and key issues that affected the soda ash market in 2017.
Trade volumes were varied until October this year, according to
the most recently published data. The May total was a
nine-month high, reflecting exports from China at 178,286
tonnes. Chinese exports hit a nine-month low in October of
Despite the variation in volumes, spot prices held flat from
May 18, although October had the highest single monthly
increase in prices since at least January 2014.
Compared with 2016, monthly volumes in 2017 were down for every
month except for February.
In February, Tata Chemicals announced plans to expand its
capacity in India by 2020 to meet growing domestic demand. The
company will lift total capacity to 1.4 million tonnes per year
from 900,000 tpy at present
Eti Soda confirmed at the end of this year that it would bring
its Kazan plant to full capacity by the end of January 2018,
which the company claims will make it the biggest producer in
the world with total capacity of 4.4 million tpy at its two
sites in Turkey.
In September, after a midterm review in the high court of
Gujarat, the Indian government decided to extend protectionist
duties on foreign-originated soda ash.
This prompted a challenge from the by the All Indian Glass
Manufacturers Federation (AIGMF), which believes market
conditions no longer warrant the anti-dumping tariffs, which
have existed since 2012. Buyers and manufacturers had hoped
that the tax, which will run until July 2, 2018, unless the
AIGMF-lead challenge can overturn the ruling, could be
Environmental controls are due to come into full effect for
Chinese producers after January 1, 2018. But many markets have
already been affected by partial closures or temporary
shutdowns. The ramp-up in the regulatory regime during 2017
reflected the federal government taking control from regional
Under the environmental protection tax law, manufacturers must
comply with restrictions on emissions and waste disposal and
must pay a tax weighted against the volume of pollutants
produced. The market has widely expected that this cost would
be passed onto buyers and end-users.
After no consolidation in the first eight months of the year,
there were two major deals. After a second failed bid from
Nirma in August, Genesis swooped in to buy Tronox’
Alkali Chemicals business, the fourth-largest producer
globally, for $1.325 billion in cash. In turn, Tronox used that
capital to buy Cristal TiO2 for $1.7 billion in cash plus
Italian chemical group Itlamatch made three acquisitions,
culminating in the purchase of Dextrex Corp for $27 per share,
representing an 8% premium on the closing bid price of
Dextrex’ stock as of November 9.
The additional 1.4 million tpy of capacity at Eti Soda is
widely expected to influence prices although the company has
attempted to reassure buyers and manufacturers, pointing out
that more stringent environmental regulations in China have
forced output there down by 10%.
Producers look set to benefit from a predicted near doubling in
the size of the glass market to $1.4 billion from $800 million
at present. If this materializes, it could be a boon for
producers, particularly from China and the US, who are subject
to the high duties when exporting to India.