Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society
See  FLYER   for dates and times
SVMC Plant Tours (by bus)

SVMC invites you to take take a free school bus tour of their mineral extraction facilites. On this tour you will see how chemicals, originally present in Searles Lake as minerals like those you have been collecting, are extracted from the lake brines and processed to purified chemical products.  Each tour will have an SVMC employee as a tour guide who will both narrate the tour and answer your questions. Only the Argus and Trona mineral extraction plants will be toured.

Each tour will last about 30 minutes. Departure times are; 10:40, 11:25, 12:10, 12:55 and 1:40, Saturday only. The last tour will return in time for you to participate in the Saturday afternoon Blow Hole field trip to Searles Dry Lake.

We hope to again have the Trona Joint Unified School District provide two buses for tours.  If the school provides two buses, we can offer 10 tours, enough for about 600 people.  However, many more than 600 people will attend the show, meaning not everyone will be able to go on one of these tours.  The buses load on a first come-first on basis.

While everyone is welcome to take the tour, SVMC must protect their technology and therefore must require that there be NO PHOTOGRAPHY during the tour.
The Trona Plant is the oldest.  Potash (KCl) and borax production first began in 1917 and were made using a brine evaporation process.  Over the years many changes were made to the Trona Plant with new plants constructed and others that were no longer profitable shut down. The Trona Plant presently produces boric acid using an award winning solvent extraction/evaporation process. Primary borax from the Westend Plant is also refined into anhydrous borax and decahydrate borax.
The Westend Plant is the second oldest operating chemical plant, starting operation in 1925 with the production of soda ash and borax. In 1955 sodium sulfate was added.  Chemical extraction is based on brine carbonation and refrigeration.  Current products are borax and sodium sulfate (the brine is still carbonated but now at the Argus soda ash plant).  Production has been expanded several times, most recently in 1996 with the start of a new lake mining operation based on new techonolgy.
The Argus Soda Ash Plant is the newest chemical extraction plant, starting operaton in 1978.  It is the largest soda ash plant in the world using a process based on the carbonation of natural soda ash brines.  The product is made by reacting lake brines with carbon dioxide to cause sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to crystallize.  This is separated from the brine by filtration, with the bicarb then being heated to convert it to crude soda ash.  Recrystallization to purify it and final drying complete the process.
The Argus Utilites Plant was constructed at the same time as the soda ash plant and the began operation at the same time.  The large boilers are the first in California to be fired with coal, and are fitted with extensive environmental controls for nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, fly ash and CO2 to keep our air clean.  The boilers produce steam at 1,500 pounds pressure and 950 degree Fahrenheit. This steam is used first to produce enough electric power to run the Argus and Trona Plants with enough left over for a city of 18,000, and then the steam is used again for process heat at all plants.
The ACE cogeneration plant began operation in 1990 to demonstrate advanced clean coal combustion technology for electric power production.  The combustion process used is known as "circulating fluid bed combustion" and features, among other things the control of nirtogen oxides and sulfur oxides during the combustion of the coal, rather that as an after treatment of the flue gases.  It produces enough power for a city of 100,000.  The ACE plant is owned by a separate company, but has an energy supply agreement with SVMC.

Go to Gem-O-Rama Site Map

Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society
P. O. Box 966
Trona, CA 93592-0966
Phone (760) 372-5356

Home  Site Map  | Revised 10/28/2012

All contents of this web page are the property of the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society.
Reproduction or other uses of any of these contents without the written permission of the owner is prohibited.
If you want to use any of the contents, contact the SLG&MS at any of the above.