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Turkey's Ciner invests $1.35 bln in soda ash to become world leader.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Turkey's Ciner Group conglomerate signed a $1.35 billion deal in ystanbul on Friday with China Tianchen Engineering Corporation (TCC) to build the world's biggest soda ash facility in Ankara.

Made out of a mineral called trona, soda ash is used in 200 separate manufacturing items from coatings, detergents, food and dialysis to personal care.

A soda ash production facility in Ankara's Kazan district, due to be completed by early 2017, will make Ciner the largest producer of soda ash in the world. It will also provide jobs for 2,200 people. Ciner's partner TCC is currently constructing Turkey's largest underground natural gas storage facility under Lake Tuz.

Ciner currently produces soda ash in Ankara's Beypazary. Ankara is home to the world's second-largest trona reserves (1.34 billion tons) after Wyoming in the US. Ciner's subsidiary Eti Soda in Beypazary has exported $1 billion worth of soda ash to 53 countries since 2009 and expects the new facility to increase this amount to $1.75 billion per annum.

Friday's $1.35 billion deal was introduced in a signing ceremony that was attended by Energy Minister Taner Yyldyz, Ciner Group Chairman Turgay Ciner and TCC CEO Wang Zhiyuan. Ciner said the Kazan facility will use natural gas and they will finance most of the project with loans from Chinese banks. "We've had talks with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited [ICBC]," he said.

Although Turkey's soda ash reserves are well below levels in the US, the country has the opportunity to competitively market this strategic product in international markets due to its geographical proximity to major buyers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Nedim E[currency]ener, board head at Koza Soda Elektrik A.E[currency]., a Ciner subsidiary, told Today's Zaman at Friday's meeting.

Stating that soda ash can be produced in two ways -- either from natural sources or synthetic components -- E[currency]ener said all of the soda ash produced in Turkey will be natural. "Since the production of natural soda ash is significantly less expensive, requiring relatively less energy, capital and raw materials, than synthetic soda ash production, we now have the opportunity to competitively export significant volumes of natural soda ash to international buyers," E[currency]ener said, adding that considering the buyers in Turkey's surrounding region, soda ash producers in Europe and the US "stand no chance of competing with Turkey in this part of the world." He said that expensive synthetic production in Europe -- which lacks natural sources of soda ash -- and high transportation costs for the US "will hand Turkey the leadership in supplying soda ash to most foreign markets." "We have rapid access to 98 percent of major buyers from Australia to North Africa," he added.

Synthetic soda ash production has the added disadvantage of high carbon emissions in addition to its relatively higher costs. Another critical factor that makes it more advantageous for Turkey is the anticipated cuts in production by European soda ash manufacturers due to EU carbon emission reduction measures. "Europe wants to cut carbon emissions by half and they will force companies to do so. ... According to EU regulations in the following three years, firms who continue to emit large amount of emissions will be fined between eight to 28 euros per ton of their production," E[currency]ener said.

"We do not have such problem but our European rivals will have to increase prices due to any anticipated penalties which will allow us offer competitive prices in the market," he said.

"Three of our biggest customers have signed a contract with us to purchase natural soda ash from us until 2023. ... I cannot disclose their names but new companies could be added to this list," E[currency]ener told Today's Zaman on Thursday. Giant retailers Unilever and Henkel are among Ciner's customers.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 11, 2013
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