China continues soda ash production resurgence

By Michael Greenfield
Published: Monday, 08 July 2019

Domestic Chinese soda ash production has risen following environmental inspections that hit production output year.

Chinese soda ash production moved higher in May 2019 compared with previous two months, which extends a run of improved output from the world’s largest producer since environmental inspections hit supply levels last year.

Production dropped to a low of 2.02 million tonnes per month in July 2018, increasing to 2.09 million tpm in August before recovering to 2.34 million tpm by December 2018.

Soda ash production averaged 2.23 million tonnes in the nine months from August 2018 to May 2019, according to data from the China National Bureau of Statistics.

Figures for January and February 2019 are published as a single entry and totaled 4.15 million tonnes.

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Soda ash production output statistics for the following three months continued to show consistent year-on-year gains. 

Soda ash production in March rose by 8% year on year to 2.25 million tonnes, while output in April increased by 7.7% to 2.24 million tonnes, and in May output surged by 11.9% compared with May 2018 to 2.34 million tonnes. 

The reduction in production levels and soda ash supply over the summer months of 2018 had a direct impact on Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment, which held firm at $300-310 per tonne, on a fob China basis, from May 17 to July 5. 

Over those three months, soda ash production averaged 2.04 million tpm, almost 200,000 tpm lower than the average achieved in the following nine months.

Fastmarkets IM’s latest price assessment for soda ash, synthetic, dense and light, fob China was $255-260 per tonne on June 13, unchanged week on week yet down from $265 per tonne on May 30. 

It is widely believed the global soda ash market accounts for 60 million tonnes per year - of which China accounts for half of - to give an estimated capacity of 2.5 million tpm in China.