Natural Soda, a sodium bicarbonate mining company, is set to finish the expansion of their manufacturing plant by the end of April. The plant sits in the Green River Formation in Northwestern Colorado, which is also home to the world’s largest oil shale deposits. Natural Soda, the second largest producer of sodium bicarbonate in the nation, claims that the new facility will double their manufacturing capabilities to 250,000 tons annually, up from 125,000 tons. The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reports that one-third of the new facility is already in operation, according to plant manager Bob Warneke.
Sodium bicarbonate is used in many household products, including baking powder, baking soda, toothpaste, animal feed, pharmaceutical products, and several industrial processes. The product is mined from deposits of nahcolite and transported to the factory, where it is refined into a powder form and shipped out. Natural Soda’s deposits of nahcolite lie adjacent to deposits of oil shale and the company has also started efforts to mine oil shale. The Bureau of Land Management leased 160 acres of land to Natural Soda to experimentally develop oil shale last December and the company has been moving forward on their efforts to mine oil shale.
The company has previously stated that they plan on mining oil shale far below aquifer levels in order to avoid groundwater contamination. If the company is capable of proving to the Bureau of Land Management that they can produce oil shale environmentally and economically responsibly, then the BLM will grant them a commercial lease to being selling their product and expand the size of their lease.
Warneke told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that Natural Soda plans to draft their plans for an oil shale facility and submit them to the BLM by the end of the year, with hopes of starting construction on the plant in 2014. The company does not plan for the oil shale project to be nearly the size of their sodium bicarbonate expansion.