Sure, good ole’ table salt is the key to a tasty French fry, but the importance of salt goes far beyond the dinner table.
Salt used for agricultural and food processing only accounts for 3% of the salt sold or used in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summary.
Rock salt used for highway deicing accounts for about 43% of salt usage, and the chemical industry accounts for about 39% of total salt sales.
Industrial salt uses include:
- Snow and ice removal
- Set the dyes in fabric
- Assist in cleaning gas and oil wells
- Production of thousands of products like polyester, plastics, leather, paper, tires, bleach, etc.
- Water treatment processes
Salt supply is a healthy-sized industry in the U.S., with more than 42 million tons of salt produced, valued at 2.3 billion dollars.
Types of Industrial Salt & Their Costs
Industrial salts usually are purchased in bulk, and the pricing differs based on the level of purity of the salt.
Rock salt is found underground, and very little processing is done to the salt after it is removed. That’s why rock salt contains natural impurities like rock and shale, which aren’t soluble. That’s not an issue when it’s spread on the highway, but it can be an issue for other manufacturing processes in which these insoluble materials can damage manufacturing equipment.
In 2018, the average price of rock salt was $58.00 per ton.
Solar salt is a much purer salt, generally greater than 99.5% sodium chloride, that is manufactured through an evaporation process. Large outdoor ponds filled with a salt-water mixture are exposed to sunlight. The sun evaporates the water and leaves behind a purified salt crystal. This is the type of salt that is generally used in water softening applications to prevent the brine tank from becoming clogged with rocks and other types of insoluble materials.
In 2018, the average price of solar salt was $100 per ton.
Vacuum Pan Salt
Vacuum pan salt is the purest form of salt, processed by evaporating salt and water using steam heat in large commercial evaporators called vacuum pans. This process delivers the fine, flaky salt that is used for food processing and seasoning.
In 2018, the average price of vacuum and open pan salt was $200 per ton.