There is large deposit of salt in Nigeria, particularly in Ebonyi, Nasarawa and Benue states which are untapped. Consequently, Nigeria spends huge amount of foreign exchange on importation of salt and its derivatives.
There are secondary chemicals that can be produced from salt through the simple technique of electrolysis of brine. These include chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide. However, a lack of indigenous capacity in the application of this simple technique has resulted in huge loss in foreign exchange over the years due to the importation of these chemicals and refined salt.
Upon assuming office in 2017, Prof. Jeffrey T. Barminas and the Management team of NARICT took up this challenge of salting up the country, so to speak, by steering the research wheels at the Institute towards national capacity in salt utilization.
Currently, the NARICT Salt Utilization Pilot Plant is under construction in Zaria and nearing completion. The project aims to design, fabricate and install a pilot plant for production of Chlorine, Caustic soda and other associated fine chemicals using Brine.
When completed at year end and put into full operation, this would lead to increase in national knowhow and capacity in the utilization of indigenous technologies of salt production, intermediate chemicals and electrolysis of brine for local production of chlorine gas, hydrogen gas, sodium hydroxide and bleaching agents used in cleaning, disinfecting, deodorizing, waste water treatment.
It is important to emphasize that this technology is already domesticated in NARICT. Consequently, NARICT is poised to add Nigeria to the elite league of countries which produce sodium hypochlorite and profit from its exportation worldwide.
Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical that can be used in bleaching, cleaning, disinfection, deodorizing, waste water treatment and endodontic. It is also used in reduction of skin damage and nerve agent neutralization. Presently, Nigeria largely imports sodium hypochlorite, a loophole many use to sabotage the Nigerian economy through capital flight.
Similarly, caustic soda produced could also be used by women and youths in the production of soap while the importation of refined salt could also be curtailed via the NARICT value chain of salt utilization, especially when spread across the nation in partnership with state governments, trade associations and cooperatives, etc.
By building this salt utilization plant and diffusing the technology nationwide, NARICT would help to enhance job and wealth creation as well as optimal utilization of Nigeria’s abundant salt deposit.