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Solvay and ENOWA plan to build first carbon-neutral soda ash plant in Saudi Arabia

| By Mary Bailey

Solvay S.A. (Brussels, Belgium) is partnering with ENOWA, NEOM’s energy and water company, to establish the world’s first carbon-neutral soda ash production facility in NEOM, Saudi Arabia. Pending the results of an in-depth feasibility study and customary regulatory approvals, Solvay and ENOWA plan to begin operation of the groundbreaking plant by 2030.

The state-of-the-art facility is poised to emerge as an industry-leading model for soda ash production on a global scale. It will serve as a vital component in ENOWA’s Water Sustainability Strategy and reflects NEOM’s commitment to developing a zero-liquid discharge water management system.

Strategically located off of the Red Sea coast to support access to markets across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, the renewable-powered plant will convert seawater brine into soda ash and integrate the e.Solvay process for sustainable and carbon-neutral soda ash production. The partners aim to start 500,000 tons soda ash nameplate capacity by 2030 which would gradually increase up to 1.5 million tons by 2035, with the potential addition of sodium bicarbonate production.

Earlier this year, the e.Solvay pilot production process began operations in Europe. Designed to evaluate the viability of a more sustainable and competitive soda ash production technology, the pilot has yielded positive results, showcasing potential for low emissions, reduced resource and energy consumption, and complete removal of limestone residues. The next two-year pilot phase will set the stage for industrial-scale production to begin in the latter half of the decade, aligning with the NEOM implementation timeline.

“NEOM is a fantastic opportunity for Solvay to participate in building this land of the future. The soda ash plant at NEOM will be the first of its kind, as it adopts the new e.Solvay process to attain carbon neutrality,” said Philippe Kehren, Solvay CEO. “This new plant will reinforce Solvay’s global leadership position, ensuring a sustainable supply of carbon-neutral soda ash to our valued customers. This endeavor aligns seamlessly with our sustainability ambitions and complements our unique network of industrial assets worldwide.”

Gavin van Tonder, Managing Director of Water, ENOWA added, “With this partnership, NEOM is poised to become a global blueprint for sustainable development through its investment in responsible water resource management. Our vision encompasses more than just creating a thriving economic region; it is about building a model that empowers communities to coexist sustainably with the environment. We are thrilled to be working with partners who share the same ambition.”

NEOM is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia being developed from the ground up. A complex engineering endeavor, NEOM will operate on 100% renewable energy and is redesigning urban development to offer a sustainable solution to population growth and rapid urbanization. The region will protect 95% of its land and sea area within a nature reserve, with the remaining being made up of cognitive cities, a next-gen port, tourist destinations, and research centers, among other assets. ENOWA is using circular design and investing in groundbreaking technologies to realize NEOM’s vision for a new future.