Coal ash from power stations and steam generators continues to accumulate across the country. As a result, the South African Coal Ash Association (SACAA) has called for private and public sectors to explore ways of incorporating coal ash into their everyday supply chains.
SACAA director, Belinda Heichler, says there are a myriad of uses for the coal ash that range from cement blending, cement-less concrete production, brick making, road stabilisation, to plastic additives, agricultural uses and neutralising acid mine drainage. SACAA would like to assist in creating awareness of the benefits of coal ash in these applications.
“These companies are doing an enormous service to the country. They are tapped-in to a resource that has excess supply, is highly versatile and is freely available to users provided they can provide transport from the point-of-use of the coal. This means that even if the resource needs to be hauled further than traditional supplies, it has a minimal cost attached and should provide a cost benefit to the user,” says Heichler.
She continues that Eskom recently awarded contracts to new off takers and, it is envisaged, that this will fuel a surge of interest among these companies’ peers. These new entrants to the market will need to be supported and guided by SACCA and its existing members.
Rather than being left to figure it out on their own, the 30-year-old association has a treasure chest full of resources and skills to assist, new and existing entrants, to identify markets, facilitate technical challenges and to act as an interface between Eskom, off takers, legislators and other interested parties for the benefit of the industry.
Heichler adds that right now, the association has an important role to play, particularly in promoting the use of coal ash more widely and to a more diverse audience than before. Also, in the promotion of transparency between the coal ash producers in the country, with commercial off takers of fly ash and other existing and new users of other stream of ash.
Imminent action required
“The sad reality is that our country is running out of space to dump the millions of tons of coal ash that are produced annually and it is imperative that we support all attempts to take useable ash out of the waste stream at its source. It is also worth noting that the requirement for fly ash has grown over the past 30-years, but that the number of off-takers has not,” Heichler says.
She further explains that coarse/bottom coal ash also needs to be marketed as a greener aggregate for precast concrete and road stabilisation. Coal ash should also be used in our fight to limit acid mine drainage damage to our environments.
“There are too many other uses to discuss here, but in a depressed economy it is safe to say that SACAA will do everything, within its abilities, to help individuals, companies and government departments unpack the characteristics of different types and grades of coal ash and to assist in the use and commercialisation of products derived from this valuable material,” she concludes.