A well-known Turkmen scientist, Doctor of Technical Sciences Allaberdy Ilyasov, a regular contributor to CentralAsia.news addressed the role of a well-known expert on the publication on September 26. In his new article, the specialist commented on industrial processing of soda ash as a product with the strategic dimension.
Wide and very usable range
Soda ash is one of the most important chemical products. In Soviet times, the central newspapers reported on soda ash production by years as the priority and most important performance indicator of the industry. In post-Soviet times, little attention is paid to this indicator, but soda production remains of great importance for the chemical industry and other industries which are closely dependent on soda consumption.
Soda ash is a traditional product with a long history of production and use. It is difficult to name any sector of modern industry in which this product has not been used. The largest consumers of soda ash are the chemical, metallurgical and other industries.
In the chemical industry, soda ash is used to produce caustic soda using chemical processes, sodium bicarbonate, detergents (laundry soap, toilet soap), chromium compounds, sulphites and fluorides, phosphates, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, brine cleaning solutions, etc.
It is also used to produce sheet, rolling and lighting glass, silicate blocks, bottles and crystal and high-quality tableware.
In glass production, soda ash is the main ingredient of glass batch. Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is used in large amounts in non-ferrous metallurgy, mainly to produce alumina from bauxite by sintering cryolite and process lead-zinc, cobalt-nickel and tungsten-molybdenum ores.
Soda ash is used to produce aluminium, nickel, tungsten and other non-ferrous metals not only in metallurgical processes, but also in the flotation of non-ferrous metal ores, as one of the methods of mineral processing.
The pulp and paper industry consumes soda ash in large amounts. It is used to size paper and cardboard, manufacture parchment, yeast and tanning agents, and mainly in sulphite pulping. Soda ash is also used widely in the petrochemical and oil refining industries to produce synthetic fatty acids and synthetic detergents, as well as in oil refining and other processes.
The use of soda ash together with other components for drilling oil wells, makes it possible to strengthen well walls and prevent the wells from collapsing, thereby protecting drilling equipment from damage and increasing drilling speed.
The use of soda ash plays an important role in improving foundry technology in mechanical engineering. In the medical industry, soda ash is used to manufacture medicines. In the electronics industry, soda ash is used to manufacture electrovacuum glass. In the textile industry, soda ash is used to wash, bleach and dye fabrics, mercerize cotton and manufacture rayon and nitrocellulose.
In the leather and footwear industry, soda ash is used in alkaline processing in fur production. The use of soda ash for cleaning water in steam boilers helps extend the service life of the boilers and save substantial amounts of fuel.
Legacy of global chemical industry
Natural soda was known in ancient times and used in manufacture soap and glass. It began to be used to manufacture glass on a larger scale in Egypt in 1370 BC. The first information about the extraction of soda by evaporating the water of soda lakes dates back to 64 BC and is found in the book on medicinal substances by a Roman physician Pedanius Dioscorides. Until the 18th century, he and alchemists in all countries considered soda a kind of substance that hissed and released some kind of gas when reacting with the acids known by that time – acetic and sulfuric acids.
Certainly, soda produced at that time was not clean. Until the early 19th century, the main source of soda was the ash of some seaweeds and coastal plants, as well as natural soda, which was obtained from the soda lakes of lower Egypt and the soda-containing rocks of the Hungarian lowland between the Danube and the Tisza.
In those days, the name “soda” comes from the plant Salsola soda, from the ashes of which it was extracted. However, it cannot be said that this method was suitable for industrial production. The growing glass, soap and textile production required more soda. It was not until the 18th century that people learned to produce artificial soda after a long and painful search. Today, several ways to extract soda ash exist.
Prospects of Turkmenistan’s chemical industry
Turkmenistan has colossal mineral reserves. These are hydromineral, mineral and hydrocarbon resources. The Turkmen state that ranks among the world’s leaders with natural resources for the chemical industry views the full-scale, and most importantly, integrated development of unique natural resources as one of its strategic tasks. This puts forward several requirements for the current development of Turkmenistan’s chemical industry as one of the most promising sectors of the national economy.
Turkmenistan is rich in mineral salts, among which the main ones are chlorides, including potassium and sulphates. The main salt reserves are located in the Jurassic salt-bearing formation of Eastern Turkmenistan. The largest deposits are Gaurdak and Karlyuk, as well as the ancient deposits of Karabogazgol.
Turkmen scientists and chemists have been conducting research for many years. Their works, based on the principles and methods of substantiating the standard requirements for hydromineral deposits, as well as literature and Internet data, provide assessment of mineral resources of our country to identify the prospects for using them to extract and produce valuable rare elements.
The chemical industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of Turkmen economy that has a huge resource potential. Therefore, its modern production infrastructure is a key priority of the economic policy of Turkmenistan.
According to analyst forecasts, the demand for soda ash will witness a high growth rate over the next five years. The global needs for soda ash will continue to increase under the general economic conditions.