Ciner eyes soda ash leader status with 4mln-tpy upgrade plan

By Michael Greenfield
Published: Wednesday, 03 April 2019

Ciner Group has a five-year plan to increase soda ash production by 1 million tpy via capacity expansion and another 3 million tpy from greenfield developments.

The United States arm of soda ash producer Ciner Group will add capacity for 4 million tonnes per year of natural soda ash over the next five years, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Ciner Group, based in Turkey, will expand production capacity by 1 million tpy at the existing plant operated by its subsidiary in the US, Ciner Resources, and will add a further 3 million tpy at a greenfield site.

The expansion at its plant in the state of Wyoming will take three years to complete, while the greenfield site, which is also intended to be in Wyoming, will take five years to come online, according to the source.

No start date for these projects has been set.

Currently, Ciner Group has total capacity for just under 7 million tpy of soda ash across its operations. Globally, only Belgium-based Solvay has greater total capacity, according to Fastmarkets’ calculations.

At its US plant, Ciner Resources has nameplate capacity for 2.94 million tpy, according to data released by the US Geological Survey in 2017.

But the company has not been achieving that nameplate capacity and only recently set a production record for a single quarter, producing 709,000 short tons at the plant in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Parent company Ciner Group operates two plants in Turkey with combined capacity for 4 million tpy. Should a further 4 million tpy be added to group’s capacity, this would bring it to almost 11 million tpy, by Fastmarkets’ estimate.

Ciner Group is already the largest producer of dense grade soda ash, but Solvay also has synthetic soda ash plants, and therefore also produces light-grade material. This makes Solvay the largest overall producer by volume.

Total global demand is around 60 million tpy but this is growing by 3% per year.

Before the first tonnages from Ciner Resources’ proposed expansion reach the market, the company will have exited its partnership with the American Natural Soda Ash Corporation (Ansac), and will subsequently perform its own international sales and marketing functions. These are currently done on its behalf by Ansac.

This change was announced on November 19, 2018, and will come into effect on December 31, 2021.

"Ciner Resources’ export price will go up, because I personally believe that Ansac is not worried about the real value of the product," the source said.

According to Ciner Resources, the selling price for soda ash in the US and Canada in the last three months of 2018 was $222 per ton. The international selling price, which Ansac controls, was almost $60 per ton lower at $168 per ton.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for soda ash, natural, dense, large contracts, fob Wyoming, was $185-225 per tonne on February 28.

Workers recently had to evacuate the Wyoming mine after a gas leak, but the source told Fastmarkets that he "believed" that the mine was once more fully operational.