US soda ash production hits 2018 high in July

By Michael Greenfield
Published: Monday, 22 October 2018

Soda ash output in the United States has hit a 2018 high, will South American and Southeast Asian consumption is on an upward trend.

Soda ash production in the United States rose for the second consecutive month in July 2018 to the year’s highest monthly production figure, according to data from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Soda ash production reached 1.07 million tonnes in July, up by 11% from 961,000 tonnes in June and 50,000 tonnes more than the previous 2018 monthly high of 1.02 million tonnes in March.

The year-high for monthly production came at a time when soda ash producers were widely reported as being sold out. But figures in the second quarter of the year were slightly irregular because US production figures wobbled when Ciner Resources suffered an issue with one of its calcining furnaces.

This meant that 64,000 tons (equivalent to 58,000 tonnes) was taken out of the company’s annual total for the three months ending June 30, compared with the corresponding period in 2017.

In May, when Ciner experienced its issues, US companies produced 952,000 tonnes.

The company revised its annual sales volume, believing that the production losses cannot be made up, but did not disclose the level at which it is now projecting full-year sales.

In a second-quarter earnings call, Ciner Resources chief executive officer Kirk Milling said that the domestic sales price in the US had also decreased by 0.6%.

Fastmarkets IM’s latest assessment of the price for soda ash, natural, large contracts, fob Wyoming, was $200-230 per tonne on September 13.

Trends continue

Export trends continued from earlier this year, showing greater consumption of US-origin soda ash in South America and Southeast Asia.

Volumes to Europe decreased by 77% during the first five months of the year compared with the same period in 2017, according to USGS data.

Tonnages sold and shipped to Europe fell to 59,700 tonnes in January-May 2018 from 259,000 tonnes in the first five months of 2017.

The latest data highlighted the fact that Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia continued to consume the bulk of US soda ash, accounting for 42% of all exports, or 1.39 million tonnes, from January to June.

In the first six months of the year, Mexico accounted for 635,000 tonnes or 19% of US exports, Brazil for 461,000 tonnes or 14%, and Indonesia for 302,000 tonnes or 9%.