Salt is an essential ingredient for human life, and has been used by people for millennia. Solar salt, or salt produced by large-scale solar evaporation was first produced during the early 1800s and by 1830s hundreds of salt-works were in operation globally. Chemical salt, or salt used in the chlor-alkali process has been in use since the 19th century and is a primary industry in the United States, Western Europe, and Asia. The chlor-alkali process is a widely used electrolytic process that yields chlorine and caustic soda.
Chlorine and caustic soda are used in producing plastics including PVC, resins, glass, detergents, pharmaceuticals, soaps sand other products. They are used in producing glass, detergents, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, resins and soaps. The single largest usage area for chlorine is in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC plastics), while the largest use in inorganic chemicals is for the manufacture of titanium dioxide. It’s co-product from the chlor-alkali manufacturing process, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) also finds wide application in industry including the refinement of aluminium.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of salt, with 95% of production destined for the chemical industries of Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia and other countries. These markets are expanding at 3-4% annually driven by population growth and industrialisation, and are the key target markets for Leichhardt.
The Chlor-Alkali Process
The chlor-alkali process is an industrial process for the electrolysis of sodium chloride (NaCl- salt). It is the technology used to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) which are commodity chemicals required by industry. The process has a high energy consumption however, due to the introduction of more energetically efficient membrane technologies, the process has become more efficient in recent years.
Japan is the first major chlor-alkali producing country to switch entirely to the new membrane cell technology, with advanced membrane cell conversion continuing across other key producers in Asia. One of the significant developments in the chlor-alkali industry is the ODC process in which oxygen is introduced into the electrolysis chamber resulting in a significant reduction in electrical power consumption
These membranes however are sensitive to the purity of the feedstock. Significantly improving the brine quality will prolong the life of the membranes as well as the cell elements, resulting in the further lowering of operating costs. This factor is leading to an increased demand for higher quality industrial salt feedstocks in key global chemical markets, targeted by Leichhardt Industrials.