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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Alpat, the sole producer of sodium carbonate, expands to join the lithium chain

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Investments

For this reason, the national company, owned by Grupo Indalo, has already begun to implement a strategic investment plan in the face of an expanding market. The plant, located in San Antonio Oeste, a town in Río Negro with 48,000 inhabitants, currently produces some 170,000 tons per year of sodium carbonate, also called soda ash or soda solvay. It aspires to reach 210,000 per year in the short term. However, only in Argentina 350,000 tons are consumed per year, so the rest is imported from China and the United States.

This without considering the lithium industry, where sodium carbonate is a necessary input, since it is required for the first stages of production. In northern Argentina, where the lithium triangle is located, Alpat is already registering increasing levels of demand. Currently, the consumption for the production of the so-called “white gold” is 67,580 tons of sodium carbonate, but it is expected to double in the next three years. It is that there are currently two lithium exporting companies in Argentina, but by 2030 the projections of the Ministry of Mining indicate that there will be eight operational projects.

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Key input. Sodium carbonate is used in different industrial branches.

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Given this scenario, the company launched a strategic investment plan of US$250 million. In a first stage, it is in the process of bringing the current production of 170,000 tons per year to 210,000 tons. In a second stage, the plant will be expanded to bring annual production to 330,000 tons. Finally, in a third stage, the company aspires to make a second expansion of the plant, in such a way as to bring annual production to 550,000 tons.

In dialogue with Ámbito, Emilio Castillo, general manager of Alpat, explained the company’s plans: “Our main clients are companies in the glass sector, a huge market in Argentina. But lithium has begun to give us the possibility of expanding to integrate into that enormous chain that is going to boost the national productive matrix, ”he explained.

In the lithium market, lithium carbonate is the most demanded compound. During the conventional production process, from brines, sodium carbonate is the input used to precipitate lithium from brinea process that is carried out at a high temperature, to finally carry out a wash of the obtained solution.

Export

Currently, all production is sold to the domestic market. But with the expansion of installed capacity, the company has begun to export. “The demand comes from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and BoliviaTherefore, we project increasing levels of sales abroad, which constitutes a unique opportunity to generate greater development in one of the sectors where Argentina already shines globally,” added Castillo.

According to specialists, globally, sodium carbonate represents a market of US$11,000 million, and it is estimated that it will grow by around 3% in the coming years, driven mainly by the glass industry and the industrial sector. automotive.

Alpat has 400 employees, among its four operating centers: SAO production plant, Quarry and Crushing Plant (in Aguada Cecilio, Río Negro), Salina (El Gualicho) and offices in Buenos Aires. The production is carried out with a productive method in synthetic form, through a Solvay ammonia process.

Source: Ambito

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