Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another neglected Gold mine

These days our government & people become very hot. Why? Do not you know? Now we are a rich nation because we have petroleum resources under very deep sea. Now we are doing very complex studies on that resource. I wish my government to be success well. Because after we succeeded we can get rid of energy crisis to some extent.

But do you know that our investors & government have forgotten or neglected the largest resource which can quite easily convert into financial reality. We do not need to dig deeper sea. We do not need to put risky steps in this process. There are scientifically proven ways to extract valuable material from this reservoir. What is this great reservoir? It is sea. My mother land is blessed with sea. Indian Ocean is all around my mother land. We can found sea in every where of our country boarder.

Today Prof. Ajith de Alwis gave me a video on “Sea water & Salt based Industries in Sri Lanka” which is produced by VIVACE for Department of Chemical & Process Engineering, University of Moratuwa. The script of that video was written by Eng. S. A. S. Perera who is one of our senior lecturers & a prominent chemical & process industrialist in Sri Lanka.

The video documentary shows the present status of salt industry & the amount of neglected potential which can be used to change present financial state of Sri Lanka. We only extract two minerals from large amount of mineral amount. It is NaCl & gypsum. This is also done using low efficient processes.

In Sri Lankan sea water based industry we only produce NaCl as food ingredient & gypsum for cement manufacturing & building construction. In Sri Lanka there are salt pans in elephant pass, Hambantota & Putlam area which is rich with proper characteristics for salt pans.

1. Easy access to sea water.

2. Low rainfall with dry weather with high wind condition

3. Clay soil to prevent the percolation of water

4. Should not be subjected to floods

5. Large flat area with no poultry industry near by

6. Abundance of labour

7. Transport & export facilities

As everyone knows salt is produced by solar evaporation in some of costal area in Sri Lanka for consume. But NaCl has a very good demand as industrial chemical. World total production of salt is 220 millions of MTs. From that amount 95% goes to production processes of Cl2 & NaOH (Caustic Soda). USA is the giant, they produce 47 millions of MT while China, Germany & India produces 37, 16, 15 millions of MT respectively. They produce NaCl from sea water but they do not stop from that product. They continue their process on brine (which is a by product of salt production process) to extract other valuble minerals like Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Sulphate, Potassium chloride & other voluble minerals. But in Sri lanka the scenario is very critical. We pump the brine solution back to sea which is concentrated using large amount of energy. As scientific calculations we must use 2,555,200,000 kCal to evaporate sea water & to obtain 100,000 MT of salt. To obtain this amount artificially we need 6.375 billion of rupees worth fire wood or 378 billion worth fuel oil.

Now we have well established salt production facility. But we can not satisfy with that level. Because, we have not achieved the best. The most valuable intermediate products are reverse pumped to sea again. As example in third stage of salt production salt pan bed convert to pink colour, because of a bacteria which is consisted of beta carotene. It can be extracted and used to manufacture vitamin A. But we have neglected. The bittern solution which is pumped back to sea can be used to manufactured Ma(OH)2, Magnesia, Epsom salt, Magnesium oxy chloride, potassium Fertilizers. We can use NaCl to produce Cl2 & NaOH which are very valuable chemicals.

These processes are not very complex like nuclear fusions, microprocessor fabrication, rocket science … etc. There are scientifically proven ways to get chemical harvest from the field. We have feasible sites, primary production facilities & experts in sea water based manufacturing. Then what is the issue? The issue is with attitude of our people. Our people do not have a vision & mission to lead our great nations towards the future. Our entrepreneurs have narrow scope. They are intelligent. But do not like to explore new potentials. They prefer telecommunication infrastructure developing, entertainment & tourism, financial services, BPO, software developing, distilleries, petroleum, automobile, education industry … etc which are proven to be success. But our experts can prove with high level of feasibility studies, pilot plant designs & world class project reports if they are given a chance to do that. Chemical & Process engineering can used to revolute a nation’s economy.

I am not going to write about self sufficient in every aspect. But we have to explore our resources & we must convert them into financial realities. We have natural resources & intellectuals. Please make infrastructure to perform our abilities. We need to serve our mother land. Chemical industry is highly profitable. Check fortune 500 companies then you will find chemical companies among the top of the list. The only barrier is lack of awareness & attitude of our people.

Government & top entrepreneurs must pay their attention toward this kind of neglected potentials if they actually want to uplift the nation. The video which was given by Prof. Ajith de Alwis is very comprehensively described the scenario. It nicely show present situation of salt manufacturing & the great potential we neglected.

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