Soda plant changes hands |

Soda plant changes hands

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

The Belgian company that purchased the American Soda plant in Parachute Wednesday has not yet decided whether to keep it open, said a spokesman for Solvay America on Thursday.

The American Soda plant was purchased Wednesday by Houston-based Solvay America from Williams Production of Tulsa, Okla., for an undisclosed price.

The Garfield County Assessor’s Office also said the price has not yet been revealed.

“We just bought it so we’re going to take a look at that,” Solvay America spokesman Ed Buckingham said Thursday. “We’ll take a careful look at the viability of the operation over the next few months and see what’s best.”

American Soda manager Charlie Yates, a former employee of Solvay America at its soda ash plant in Green River, Wyo., said he thinks Solvay bought the plant to run it.

“Every indication I have is that Solvay purchased the plant to operate it,” he said. “What we have not found out yet is the operation rate.”

Yates said it’s too early to know if jobs at the plant are in jeopardy.

“Solvay really is a fine corporation,” Yates said. “It’s well-run and profitable and it’s the largest producer of soda ash in the world.”

In addition to purchasing the soda ash plant, Solvay America also purchased the mine, mineral rights and 44 miles of pipelines.

“There’s 100 years worth of mineral rights,” Yates said. “Rights are renewable every 20 years.”

The deal was struck by Solvay America after American Soda president Kurt Nielsen and a group of Colorado investors failed in their attempt to buy the plant.

Brussels, Belgium-based Solvay, which owns Solvay America, employs more than 30,000 people in 50 countries. The company recorded $7.9 billion in sales in 2002, generated by activities in its four business sectors: chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics and processing.

According to a Solvay America news release, “The acquisition provides unique opportunities for the Solvay Group to expand its resource of sodium minerals in the United States to include western Colorado nahcolite, a naturally-occurring form of sodium bicarbonate.

“We will optimize the operations of our two soda ash companies to bring greater efficiencies, overall reduced energy and other fixed costs and better customer response capabilities.”

According to the US Geological Survey, soda ash is the trade name for sodium carbonate, a chemical refined from sodium carbonate-bearing brines – also referred to as natural soda ash – or manufactured from one of several chemical processes.

It is an essential raw material in glass, chemicals, detergents, and other important industrial products.

In 1998, in terms of production, soda ash was the 11th largest inorganic chemical of all domestic inorganic and organic chemicals, excluding petrochemical feedstocks, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Although soda ash represented only 2 percent of the total $39 billion U.S. nonfuel mineral industry, its use in many diversified products contributed substantially to the gross domestic product of the United States, the survey said.

Because soda ash is used in flat glass for automobile manufacture and building construction, which are important economic sectors of the domestic economy, monthly soda ash production data are incorporated into monthly economic indicators for industrial production by the Federal Reserve Board, which monitors the condition of the U.S. economy.

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