General Chemical Soda Ash Plant
Since 1884, the General Chemical and the companies that preceded it have been produced and supplied large amounts of sodium carbonate, or soda ash, to a large range of industries involved in manufacturing. Today, their Green River plant, built in 1968, is one of the largest producers of soda ash on the planet.
The General Chemical Partners’ operation on the Green River is one of the largest facilities for the production of soda ash in North America. Within the plant is an underground trona mine as well as a refining plant on the surface, which is used to process ore recovered from the earth into soda ash. General Chemical Industrial Products owns 75 % of the operation while 25 % of the operation is owned by Owens Illinois. Owens Illinois is one of the largest companies in the world involved in the manufacture of glass containers. General Chemical Industrial Products is responsible for the operation of the facility.
The Green River General Chemical Soda Ash Plant can be found in the south west portion of Wyoming within the “mile high” prairies. The area is about 40 miles to the west of Rock Springs while Salt Lake City lies 175 miles to the south west. There is a rotating crew of workers responsible for keeping the facility operational twenty four hours a day and seven days a week.
The Green River Works is principally powered through steam energy, of which the majority results from a pair of boilers fired by coal. The water necessary for the steam conversion results from a pipeline underground that runs to the facility from the Green River. The steam that is generated is then routed to a pair of turbines and generators that have sufficient power to meet the requirements of both the plant and the mine underground.
The entire plant is designed to be highly self-reliant so maintenance needs can largely be managed on site, as can any necessary repairs, which are performed in a timely manner. When replacement parts are needed but are not available in the inventory kept on site at the plant, it is often possible to make these parts in the main shop at the plant, which is well equipped. As a result, a considerable amount of time can be saved through completion of the process locally, rather than by going through outside delivery.
Despite this reputation for efficiency, the General Chemical Soda Ash Plant may have posed a health risk to its employees. Many factories, power stations, and chemical plants built in the 1960s and 1970s used asbestos in the construction of their facilities as an insulator. Unfortunately, loose asbestos fibers in the air often proved deadly for those who worked around them.