It would be hard to go anywhere in today's world without being close to a product produced with or containing soda ash, because soda ash, known chemically as sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), is used virtually everywhere and has been a key raw material for thousands of years. Soda ash has significant economic importance because of its applications in manufacturing glass, chemicals, paper, detergents and many other products.
Soda ash is a source of sodium ions in the production of sodium phosphates, sodium silicates, chrome chemicals and photographic chemicals. It's also used in the production of sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda), which is an essential ingredient in the beverage, coatings, detergents, food, dialysis, and personal care markets.
In several of these applications, soda ash and caustic soda are interchangeable raw materials. However, soda ash typically has a cost advantage over caustic soda, which has historically demonstrated more dramatic price fluctuations.