Electric vehicles and solar energy boost India’s soda ash to 60 lakh tonnes
India’s annual demand for soda ash is about to reach 60 lakh tonnes. This is because solar energy and electric vehicles, two new industries, could use a lot of soda ash.
In an interview with businessline, RS Jalan, Managing Director of GHCL Ltd., India’s second-largest soda ash producer, said that the green initiatives by the government, along with traditional growth drivers like the growing use of detergents by the urban middle class and the growth of the housing sector, will be the new growth drivers for the sector.
Soda ash is a raw material that can be used to make, among other things, glass, silicates, solar glass for solar panels, and detergents.
‘The government’s green initiatives to increase solar power from 50 gigawatts (GW) to 300 GW will require a lot of soda ash. Also, as concerns about pollution grow, large power producers need more soda ash to clean the flue gas that comes out of their boilers. ‘This is in addition to the growth in the use of detergents and the demand for glass in the real estate market,’ said Jalan.
Also, the demand for lithium carbonate is growing in India and around the world because it is used as a precursor to the lithium compounds that are used to make li-ion batteries for electronics and electric vehicles (EVs).
‘Right now, India needs between 42 and 43 lakh tonnes of soda ash every year. This will reach 60 million tonnes by 2030,’ he said.
Drop in imports
Based on information from the Alkali Manufacturers Association of India (AMAI), India’s installed soda ash capacity as of March 31, 2022, was 42.96 lakh tonnes per annum. This capacity was shared by six companies: Nirma, GHCL, RSPL, DCW, Tata Chemicals, and Nirma’s Saurashtra Chemicals. During 2021–2022, the companies used an average of 83% of their capacity to make 35,500,000 tonnes of soda ash.
India imported about 7 lakh tonnes of soda ash to make up for the shortfall last year. Notably, imports have gone down from a high of 9 lakh tonnes in 2019–20, which was a record.
‘To meet the growing demand by 2030, we will need to build more capacity,’ Jalan said.
Some of the big players, like Tata Chemicals and RSPL, as well as GHCL, are thought to be adding capacity. Most of the soda ash plants in India are in the state of Gujarat.
With an investment of ₹4,000 crore, GHCL is building a 500,000-tonne-per-year plant in Kutch. This is in addition to its 12 lakh-tonne capacity plant in Saurashtra.
‘The work on building the new facility is on schedule, and we have bought about 70–75% of the land we need. ‘Our goal is to get the plant running by 2025,’ he said.
‘If India doesn’t make soda ash, we’ll have to bring in a lot of it, which won’t be good for our country,’ said Jalan. Soda ash comes from Russia, Iran, the US, and Turkey.