Source: American Coal Ash Association, Farmington Hills, Mich.
Fifty-two percent of the coal ash produced during 2019 was recycled, marking the fifth consecutive year that more than half of the power generating station byproduct in the United States was beneficially used rather than disposed. The volume of fly ash used in concrete, 12.6 million tons, marks a 1 percent increase over 2018 consumption. Year-over-year use of fly ash and other coal combustion products (CCP) in portland cement production dropped 22 percent, to 5 million tons. Other CCP end use areas saw significant declines from 2018 to 2019, leading to an overall 31 percent decrease in recycling activity.
“As coal ash production declines, beneficial use markets are adopting new logistics and technology strategies to ensure these valuable resources remain available for safe and productive use in the highest value applications,” says American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) Executive Director Thomas Adams. “However, declining use in applications with lower economic value represents a lost opportunity to create significant environmental benefits. We must continue to support these practices that safely conserve natural resources while dramatically reducing the need for landfills.”
According to ACAA’s just-released “Production and Use Survey,” 41 million tons of CCP were beneficially used in 2019 out of 78.6 million tons generated. The rate of ash utilization decreased from 58.1 percent to 52.1 percent and the total volume of material utilized decreased by 18.4 million tons compared to the previous year. CCP production volume decreased 23 percent, or 23.6 million tons, from 2018 levels.
“As America’s electricity grid changes, the coal ash beneficial use industry is evolving as well,” Adams affirms. “As we work diligently to utilize the nearly half of coal combustion products that are still disposed annually, our industry is also taking significant strides in developing strategies for improving the quality and availability of these materials.” Increasing beneficial use levels requires ash marketers to ensure that products are consistent and available when customers need them, he adds, necessitating large investments in technology and logistics. Additionally, processors are actively deploying technologies and strategies for harvesting previously disposed CCP.