Subsidiary company reports


Africa’s first premium ash plant opens at Tata Chemicals Magadi

Strategic efforts by global chemicals firm, Tata Chemicals, to enhance the production capacity of their local subsidiary, Tata Chemicals Magadi, are set to place Kenya high on the global soda ash production map.

As the company celebrates the formal opening of a new $100-million premium ash plant today, Kenya is now all set to join the top league, with Tata Chemicals Magadi gearing up to boost its production capacity to 1 million tonnes in the next three years.

Speaking in Nairobi, Prasad Menon, director, Tata Chemicals, confirmed that capacity enhancement projects recently undertaken at Tata Chemicals Magadi will now propel Kenya up the global ranks as the country gears up to produce close to 2 per cent of the world’s natural soda ash.

The senior member of the Tata group, who was flanked by Michael Odera, managing director, Tata Chemicals Magadi, reiterated the global firm’s commitment to continue investing in Kenya while contributing to the national social and economic development.

From a technical perspective, Mr Menon explained that the new plant will now be producing a purer product, at 99 per cent purity, which is a key ingredient in the manufacture of flat, float and sheet glass, and related container glass.

“The importance of this new facility is particularly vindicated by the fact that global demand for soda ash is expected to reach 58 million tonnes by 2015 against the current demand of 49 million tonnes,” Mr Menon explained.

He added: “With Tata Chemicals Magadi’s production capacity expected to hit the 1-million mark before the year 2015, it’s crystal clear that Kenya will be contributing close to two percent of the global production capacity. This is a major feat for Kenya.”

On his part, Mr Odera disclosed that the capacity expansion programme will also raise the firm’s export capacity through the port of Mombasa. Currently operating from a dedicated berth, Tata Chemicals Magadi is the single largest Kenyan exporter at the Kenya Ports Authority’s Kilindini harbour, loading close to about 1,800 tonnes of soda ash daily.

Mr Odera further explained that Tata Chemicals Magadi operates on a 24-hour basis, delivering its product to Mombasa from Magadi Township through rail. With a fleet of eight mainline locomotives, Magadi rail operates and maintains more than 146km of railway line between Magadi and Konza and has also petitioned the government to fast track efforts to upgrade the Nairobi – Mombasa railway line to standard gauge status.

Soda ash in today’s world is actually a key determinant of development worldwide. Soda ash applications vary from manufacture of glass to industrial and domestic chemicals for our everyday use. Production of natural soda ash is particularly significant, with Kenya having to compete against natural producers such as the US, China, Botswana and Turkey, among others. Synthetic producers include India, China and some European countries.