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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can Coal Combustion Waste Lead To Green Jobs?

The Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant spill last December was the largest coal fly ash spill in U.S. history, spilling over one billion gallons of coal ash over 300 acres of land, into waterways and contaminating numerous homes. This event created a firestorm for regulators, who are now fast tracking legislation and regulations [see links below] to address the coal combustion waste (CCW) as toxic waste.

Our question: Is it possible to redirect massive amounts of fly ash away from the storage pools and into commercial use as a concrete and cement additive? Fly ash is already used in concrete production, but not at the levels needed to utilize fly as from all of America's coal-fired power plants.

According to Headwaters Resources:
"Because fly ash use displaces cement use, it also reduces the need for cement production – a major energy user and source of “greenhouse gas” emissions. For every ton of cement manufactured, about 6.5 million BTUs of energy are consumed. For every ton of cement manufactured, about one ton of carbon dioxide is released. Replacing that ton of cement with fly ash would save enough electricity to power the average American home for 24 days, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions equal to two months use of an automobile.

Experts estimate that cement production contributes to about 7 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human sources. If all the fly ash generated each year were used in producing concrete, the reduction of carbon dioxide released because of decreased cement production would be equivalent to eliminating 25 percent of the world’s vehicles."

Government incentives would help. For instance, the California Department of Transportation requires that mineral admixtures like fly ash comprise at least 25 percent of the cementitious material in any concrete used in state-funded paving projects. Such incentives could be leverage using the increase highway funding that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Regulatory Status

Background on CCW

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