Baking soda plant continues expansion in Rio Blanco County

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Natural Soda Inc., a subsidiary of Natural Resources USA, is expanding its facility so it can double its production of baking soda in Rio Blanco County. The company is spending about $5 million this year as part of an expansion project that it hopes to complete by late 2012.

A company that produces baking soda in Rio Blanco County is nearing completion of the first phase of a project to double its output.

Concurrent with its expansion, Natural Soda Inc. is launching a program to help financially support community organizations.

“Natural Soda has been a strong job provider in the local community for nearly three decades, but we are now in a position where we are looking to extend our commitment to the community,” Bill Gunn, chief executive officer and chairman of Natural Resources USA, of which Natural Soda is a subsidiary, said in a news release.

The baking soda plant employs 36 people. With the planned expansion, that number is expected to grow about 20 percent over the next two years, said Bob Warneke, the plant’s director of manufacturing.

Natural Soda is North America’s second-largest producer of baking soda, which is used in the food, pharmaceutical, industrial and animal feed industries. It injects hot water underground to dissolve nahcolite deposits and extract sodium bicarbonate crystals during cooling.

Last fall, the Bureau of Land Management approved a revision to Natural Soda’s mine plan to increase its sodium bicarbonate production to 250,000 tons per year, twice the current amount.

Warneke said the company is spending about $5 million this year to put in an upgraded steam boiler and utilities. Under the expansion plan, a significant amount more will be spent to install a processing plant involving a new crystallizer operation, he said. The hope is to complete the expansion project by the end of next year.

Natural Soda also has a warehouse in Rifle.

The BLM is considering granting Natural Soda an oil shale research and development lease that would dovetail with its existing operations in the Piceance Creek area. The company wants to test a process to heat and produce kerogen remaining in rock after the sodium bicarbonate has been produced.

Natural Resources incorporated in 1983 as AmerAlia Inc. and changed its name last year. It acquired more sodium bicarbonate leases and water rights in 2003 and topped 100,000 tons in production and sales in 2007.

The company said it is now inviting charity, sporting and other organizations to submit proposals for support for causes or events. Proposals must be received by Aug. 12 to be considered for the first round of contributions. An application may be downloaded from http://www.naturalresources


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