The industry still faces increasingly strong competition from China, however, which for the first time in 100 years surpassed the United States in 2003 as the world's leader in soda ash production, federal officials said.China was again the world's leader in soda ash production in 2005, the U.S.Geological Survey report said. A major producer of synthetic soda ash, China produced an estimated 11.8 million tons of soda ash last year.
Southwest Wyoming holds almost all of the nation's mineable trona reserves and the world's largest deposits of trona. The trona lies in beds from 900 to 2,000 feet underground in the trona-rich Green River Basin in Sweetwater County. The industry employs more than 2,000 people in southwest Wyoming.
Trona ore is mined and then processed into soda ash, a chemical commodity that is marketed and consumed around the world. Soda ash is used in the production of glass, soaps and detergents among other products.
The U.S soda ash industry is composed of four companies operating five plants in Wyoming, one company in California with a small plant, and one company with a mothballed plant in Colorado.
The five producers have an annual nameplate capacity of about 14.5 million tons. Wyoming's producers continued to operate under capacity in 2005, the report said.
The four Green River companies produced about 11.1 million tons of soda ash in 2005, up from the approximately 10.8 million tons in 2004, the report said.
The annual soda ash production report was prepared by Dennis Kostick, who tracks the soda ash industry for the Geological Survey.