Manufacturing of synthetic soda ash
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The aim of the project was to study the manufacturing of synthetic soda ash (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3) on an industrial scale. Currently all Soda ash that is used in South Africa for manufacturing glass is imported at a high cost, and the company Nampak Wiegand Glass (South Africa) is investigating the possibility to locally manufacture synthetic soda ash. About 75% of soda ash is synthetically produced from either the Leblanc process, Solvay process, Modified Solvay (Dual) process or dry lime process. This study concentrated on the Solvay process on a laboratory scale for eventual input into a larger pilot plant. The produced material was analyzed using analytical techniques such as FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy), Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). There are certain standard requirements for impurities in the soda ash, and this needed to be measured and determined what changes to the process will bring the impurities to the required minimum standard. Environmental issues around the manufacturing process were also studied. After completing of the laboratory experiments and the extraction of required data from the results, Nampak will use the information to decide on a followup to the building of a small pilot plant to further test and develop the engineering and economical aspects of a full plant. If successful a full scale manufacturing plant can be developed in South Africa for producing soda ash. This study thus will not only help Nampak Wiegand Glass in finalizing the decision to go ahead, but its result will also benefit other companies that use the soda ash in oil refining, water treatment, pulp and paper, chemical industry etc. Some parts of the work done will be proprietary to Nampak and subject to confidentiality agreement.