‘How Nigeria can cut glass import, tap production advantages’

Silica sand

Producing glass locally has been described as a potential goldmine that will contribute to post-COVID-19 economic growth in Nigeria, going by the global demand for the commodity.

The Director-General, Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, pointed this out recently.

Ibrahim said Nigeria is one of the most endowed countries in terms of availability of glass raw materials, including silica sand, quartz, limestone, soda ash, calcite, feldspars and cullet or (recycled glass. Other raw materials are aluminium trihydrate, sodium sulphate, chromite, etc., which are used as auxiliary raw materials. According to him, they are abundantly available in the country.

Silica sand can be found in more than 25 states of the federation. Ondo State alone has an estimated resource of three billion tonnes of silica. Likewise, quartz, limestone, dolomite, marble, chromite and feldspar are in substantial quantities in more than 15 states of the federation.

Hence, RMRDC, in collaboration with Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), is developing a process technology for the production of sodium silicate from both resources.

Despite the wide availability of various glass raw materials in Nigeria, the country currently depends mostly on importation of glass. In 2014, Nigeria imported over 360,000 tonnes of glass products for use in the construction industry.

Currently, glass importation is among the top 10 import categories in the country. In 2019, imported glass products, particularly laboratory and pharmaceutical glass wares, accounted for a high share to the tune of USD 1.5 billion with a 35 per cent increase over previous year.

Glass is a non-crystalline and often transparent amorphous solid material with wide usages.

Based on its increasing industrial application globally, glass has transformed from a luxurious decorative piece to a functional material with numerous advancements in different industry verticals. Glass is becoming a versatile material with wide application ranging from domestic uses to construction and aeronautics industry.

Ibrahim said glass made exclusively of silica is used where high service temperature, very high shock resistance, high chemical durability, very low electrical conductivity and good ultraviolet transparency are desired.

However, he added that glass products such as containers, windows, panes and lightbulbs that are low-cost, but with high durability could be made with a combination of soda, lime and silica.

The global glass manufacturing market size was valued at $127.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound yearly growth rate of 4.1 per cent from 2020 to 2027.

The rapid rise in demand for the product is from the electronics industry as a result of proliferation in the production of smartphones, increasing penetration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business and consumer applications, and decreasing prices of consumer electronic devices.

Other major products propelling increasing demand for glass are container glass, which dominated the market with a volume share of roughly 50 per cent in 2019.

In addition, increasing demand for alcoholic beverages, coupled with rapid growth of the beer industry in Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe is leading to an increase in the demand for glass.

Fiberglass is also expected to expand at a CAGR of 4.5%, from 2020 to 2027 due to its extensive usage in automobiles as a result of its lightweight and high strength properties.

Also, the increasing use of glass in the building and construction industries and its insulation applications is expected to propel the demand for glass over the next eight years.