A thriving soda ash industry in India and Gujarat is all set to get a fresh booster dose with a sharpening focus on green energy adoption. Clean energy and electric mobility will be the sunrise sectors fueling the demand for soda ash in India and the world apart from their existing applications. With the rise of the clean energy sector, India’s soda ash demand is set to undergo a paradigm shift, as classical applications like glass and detergent industries which make for an estimated 70% of the soda ash consumption in the country are set to be augmented by solar installations as well as e-mobility initiatives.
Soda ash is a key raw material for manufacturing solar glass – widely used in solar panels and is also a key component for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries and used in treatment of flue gases.
The country’s solar installations scaled a new high in calendar year 2022 with 13 gigawatt (GW) of fresh capacities. This takes India’s total capacity to 63 GW. India has set a target of achieving 300 GW installed capacity for solar power generation by 2030. This means an additional 237 GW is expected to be installed across the country over the next eight years. The highest annual solar power installations have set the pace for the future. Globally, the solar energy sector is growing at 20% per annum which will take the global installed capacity to 6 terawatt (TW) by 2031. In capacity terms, this would be larger than the combined total of coal, gas, nuclear and hydro power capacities globally.
On the other hand, the study ‘Greening India’s Automotive Sector’ by CEEW Centre for Energy Finance — an initiative of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), revealed that EVs have already crossed the 10-lakh mark in India in FY 2023. Policy initiatives from the government with financial incentives along with the launch of better products by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will only further the demand for EVs in India.
“Soda ash is a key raw material for manufacturing components vital to India’s clean energy transition. With an existing demand of 4.3 million metric tonne per annum (MMTPA), India is a net importer of soda ash to meet almost 20% of its demand, with production levels remaining at 3.6 MMTPA. The Soda ash demand increases by 5% per annum, which is stipulated to increase to 6.5% to 7% per annum, driven by growing clean energy applications such as Solar, Flue gas treatment and Lithium Ion batteries. However, if the soda ash industry must fuel the country’s renewable energy targets, the production needs to be ramped up at the rate of 2.5 – 3 lakh MT every year, to meet the rising demand,” said Mr. R. S. Jalan, Managing Director, GHCL.
Amidst the clarion call of Aatmanirbhar Bharat by our Honorable PM Shri Narendra Modi, the demand-supply gap underlines the need for more Greenfield investments in soda ash manufacturing.
“Global Soda ash production and demand is 65 MMTPA and India produces an approximate 5.5% of the soda ash consumed globally. Of this, almost 95% is manufactured in Gujarat. Even as India’s soda ash exports are miniscule, and the potential for increase in domestic demand is huge given a series of green initiatives adopted by countries across the globe. Ramping up local capacities will go a long way in realizing our Honorable PM’s vision of Make in India and Make for the World,” Mr. Jalan adds.
Gujarat can play a key role in scripting the growth of the soda ash industry in the country, fueling the growth of India and the world’s renewable energy installations and manufacturing. The state has been home to a thriving soda ash manufacturing industry for at least nine decades, which commands almost 95% of total capacity of soda ash manufacturing in India.
Key players like GHCL, Nirma Limited, Tata Chemicals and RSPL have a strong base in Gujarat, making it an ideal destination for future investments. The industry also generates direct and indirect employment for 22,000 persons in India of which Gujarat being a key manufacturer employs a majority of them.
“With a long-term vision to aid India’s self-reliance in the soda ash sector, GHCL has also announced a greenfield project – a new plant with 5 lakh MTPA capacity in Mandvi taluka of Kutch district of Gujarat, with an investment of Rs 4,000 crore. We are committed to scale newer heights to fuel India’s green energy targets and also create jobs for the country’s citizens and ensure the welfare of the communities around our plants,” Mr. Jalan said.