Solvay extends lead in Europe's bicarb market

Related tags Solvay

Belgian chemicals company Solvay is planning to expand its
production of sodium bicarbonate to improve supplies into the
European market, reports Phil Taylor.

The company has already boosted its position in the US sodium bicarbonate market through the acquisition of American Soda towards the end of 2003, and last year signed a latter of intent to collaborate with Nanjing Chemical Industries, a major Chinese producer of soda ash and related products such as sodium bicarbonate.

Solvay said yesterday that it will start manufacturing sodium bicarbonate at its Bernburg, Germany site at the end of 2005, adding that the new production unit would allow it to supply customers 'under competitive conditions, wherever they are in Northern and Central Europe'.

The new unit in Bernburg will have a nominal capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year, said Solvay. Figures supplied by market research group SRI Consulting indicate that the global sodium bicarbonate market - in terms of production - was around 1.4 million metric tons in 2002, with a value of about $480 million (€373m). The US, Western Europe and Japan together accounted for 81 per cent of production.

"This is another step in Solvay's intention to develop as a global supplier for the users of sodium bicarbonate,"​ said the Belgian firm.

Solvay is the largest supplier of sodium bicarbonate in Europe, while its counterpart in the US is Church & Dwight, shadowed by FMC Corp. In Japan the leading company in the sector is Asahi Glass Co.

Sodium bicarbonate is marketed by Solvay under the brand name BICAR for a wide variety of applications. Special grades of BICAR, manufactured in accordance with pharmaceutical requirements, are used in several pharmaceutical and paramedical applications such as haemodialysis.

Sodium bicarbonate is also traditionally used in the human and animal food industries, in detergents, fire extinguishers and most recently for the cleaning of surfaces and the removal of asbestos in buildings.The wide range of domestic and industrial applications results from the intrinsic features of sodium bicarbonate, which include antacid, effervescent and mildly abrasive properties. It can be obtained from a mineral - trona - or synthesized from salt and limestone.

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