Salt is a natural resource, which can be found either in solid form, as rock salt, or in concentrated salt solutions, such as brine. UK does not have natural beds of rock salt, due to the groundwater, but brine can be produced by injecting water in the salt beds, and the resulting solution has a concentration of about 26% of NaCl. In the UK, salt in solid form is used in many industries with different purpose, mainly for de-icing roads. There are plenty of suppliers for the cold season, such as Santander Salt UK, and authorities speculate their products and try to close deals with months in advance, so that the season will not take them by surprise. The brine is used by many chemical industries as a raw material for different products, and the remaining substances are processed using specialized devices and equipment, in order to obtain white salt, so the loss is minimal.
The main agent extracted from salt is chlorine, the main element in the world of chemical industries. In Western Europe, more than 60% of the chemical manufacturers base their activity on this substance: it is involved in the production of all plastic materials (nylon, PVC, polyurethane and many others) and in maintaining the sewage and effluent system of many cities, not to mention water disinfection or household facilities. Derived substances are used in almost all the cleaning products on the market (soap, detergents etc), in paper and glass production, and also in the pharmaceutical industry, for many types of medicines. The UK is one of the largest salt producers, due to is favourable geographical conditions, such as the ocean proximity, and it is estimated that about 6 million tonnes are annually produced in England. The salt production, especially white rock salt, has been stimulated in the past years by the severe weather conditions, which raised the de-icing salt demand during the cold season. In terms of supply and demand, the UK is self-sufficient as far as salt is concerned, and exports have always exceeded imports, thus the trade balance is almost equal.
According to economical analysis, a large part of UK’s economy is supported by salt production, regardless the form (whether rock salt or brine). This is mostly due to the fact that the material represents an important feedstock for the heavy inorganic chemicals industry all over the world, through its compounds chlorine and caustic soda. In addition to this, the salt processing industry has an important role also on a social level: more than 1,500 people work directly in the processing companies, while it is estimated that other about 150,000 are employed in derived fields. The industry is likely to evolve, especially since the demand of de-icing salt is constantly growing, due to modernisation of infrastructure and transport in European countries. Furthermore, used as a de-icing solution, salt has plenty of other advantages: it is eco-friendly, it does not affect materials nor cause harm to animals and plants and can even be used for indoor spaces.