Coal operator Alpha takes stake in Class C ash-based cement purveyor Ceratech

Sources: Alpha Natural Resources, Abingdon, Va.; CP staff

A major coal producer has acquired a 10.3 percent position in Alexandria, Va.-based Ceratech Inc., whose Ekkomaxx technology can yield concrete binding agents with performance characteristics reportedly matching ASTM C150 Types I–V powder.

Alpha Natural Resources can increase its Ceratech stake to 28.3 percent under certain future terms. It becomes the second coal producer to invest in prospective concrete technology offsetting carbon dioxide emissions from either portland cement production or fossil fuel-fired power generation. In April 2010, market leader Peabody Energy took a $15 million interest in Calera Corp., whose calcium carbonate precipitation processes—applied to power plants’ flue gas streams—are netting concrete-grade fine aggregate.

“We’re looking for ways to encourage development of new technologies that will bring sustainable environmental benefits to our utility customers,” says Alpha Natural Resources Chief Sustainability Officer Michael Peelish. “Conversion of waste fly ash into a green construction material represents an exceptional environmental use of coal combustion byproducts.”

Ceratech announced Ekkomaxx in late-January at The Precast Show in Charlotte, N.C. Billed as a “Carbon Neutral Cement System,” accompanied by green polar bear icon, the technology combines Class C ash with varying doses of five proprietary liquid or powder admixtures. Prior to Ekkomaxx, Ceratech had staked its claim in concrete and mortars with high-performance packaged dry mixes. The initial Ekkomaxx target is precast concrete, owing to producers’ greater control over mix specifications compared to their peers in ready mixed.

“Alpha’s investment brings immediate benefit …[and] will strengthen our ability to compete cost effectively against traditional cement companies,” affirms Ceratech CEO Jon Hyman. The strategic support, he adds, given Alpha’s excellent reputation, “is an endorsement we know will have great value in discussions with leading U.S. utilities.”