Novacap’s first sodium bicarbonate plant in Asia opens in Singapore

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Novacap’s first sodium bicarbonate plant in Asia opens in Singapore

Related tags Singapore

Novacap has officially opened a sodium bicarbonate plant in Singapore, the first of its kind for the French firm in Asia, to boost sales to bakery and pharmaceutical sectors, among others.

Operating under the company’s Novacarb subsidiary — the second largest distributor of sodium bicarbonate in Europe — and run by Novabay Pte Ltd, the Jurong Island facility will use the company’s trademark Bianca technology to achieve a yearly production capacity of 70,000 metric tonnes of sodium bicarbonate.

Raymond Sinnah, president of Novabay Pte Ltd and VP of Novacap Group’s Mineral Specialties division, said the technology was “an improvement on the Bianca unit”​, and called the plant a “state-of-the-art facility”​.

He added that the plant’s two feed stocks, soda ash and CO2​, would help to ensure a high-quality product by using only “high-purity soda ash (from Europe) with no heavy metals or impurities”​, as well as CO2 “captured from the petrochemical industry”​ on Jurong Island.

Another feature of the facility that Sinnah said would ensure optimal product quality was its fully automated production and packing process: “(Our facility) runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have automated everything in order to guarantee quality and consistency. We ensure there is no contamination during the packing process, and from production to packing, there is no disruption.”

‘Many reasons’ to be in Singapore

While Novacap has had a presence for some time in China and Hong Kong in the form of its pharmaceuticals and cosmetics business arm, Novacyl, Singapore is the first location in Asia for Novabay, Novacap’s mineral specialties division.

Sinnah said Novacap decided to set up a sodium bicarbonate plant in Singapore “for many reasons”​, chiefly “the purity of the CO2 ​for our feedstock”​. He attributed this to Jurong Island’spetrochemical industry, which allows them to capture CO2​ for use in the production process in instead of having it emitted into the air.

Secondly, since the company’s production process uses “the latest technology”​, it needed “competent, well-educatedpeople”​ to run the facility, and it felt Singapore was among the top Asian countries for this purpose.

Other factors that led to the plant being established in Singapore were Novacap’s desire to protect its technology and intellectual property, and its perception of the country as “the perfect hub”​ to serve the APAC market.

Government support

Furthermore, the firm has the support of the Singapore government — the Economic Development Board in particular.

Explaining the reasons for such support, Sinnah said, “We provide green solutions: we reuse CO2​, we help reduce CO2 ​emissions, we consume less energy, we recycle everything internally, and we have very limited waste.”

This coincides with the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s LUSH (Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises) 2.0 programme, which was launched in 2009 to integrate new and existing green initiatives in Singapore.

Better understanding, better future

Sinnah believes a keen understanding of the market is key to a successful business, citing Taiwan and South Korea as examples.

“Some countries have had sanitation problems and are now demanding better quality foods, like Taiwan and Korea, so they want us to have the necessary certifications and qualifications. In the past, they were driven by cost and availability but now, they are more concerned with getting healthy products.”

He also mentioned the prevalence of “short-term players” ​in the industry, which focus mainly on volume when selling. He said, “It’s better to have a full-integration approach and high-quality products than to try to expand as quickly as possible.”

While he declined to reveal the exact number of people employed at its Jurong Island plant, he admitted: “We have a lean organisation, and the right people are in the right positions.”

He added that Novacap’s French team was sent to train its staff here to ensure professional consistency across all its facilities.

He was similarly tight-lipped about the company’s customers, and its expansion plans in Asia, only saying that besides Singapore, its “key countries”​ in the region were Thailand, China, Japan and Indonesia.

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