South Jordan, Utah-based Headwaters Resources has finished the first phase of a major investment at Detroit Edison's Monroe (Mich.) Power Plant, propelling a new Class F fly ash source for Midwest and Eastern Canadian concrete producers. The country's largest manager of coal combustion products is finishing the changeover from a wet-handled ash facility, where material is placed in a disposal impoundment, to a dry process netting concrete-grade powder.
Regulatory changes on the horizon are expected to make conversions like this even more desirable, said Headwaters Resources Vice President Mike Adams. Utilizing coal ash in concrete has numerous performance and environmental benefits. In addition to reducing the material going to landfills, coal ash also allows concrete producers to use less cement÷that conserves natural resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from cement production to the tune of up to 15 million tons last year alone.
The regulatory changes in question come from the U.S. EPA and stem from a December 2008 coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tenn., which flooded more than 300 acres of land, damaging homes and property. Coal ash from the facility's surface impoundment flowed into nearby rivers, killing fish, and cost somewhere between $525 million and $825 million to clean up. EPA estimates there may be as many as 300 such storage units in the country, and in late June 2009, the agency posted on its web site a list of 44 high hazard potential impoundments containing coal ash at 26 different coal-burning electric utility facilities.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has committed to proposing regulation on the management of coal ash by the end of 2009, when it will then be available for public comment. The regulations mean more fly ash out of landfills and into recycling, which is a good thing, says Headwaters Vice President, Marketing & Government Affairs John Ward. While none of the discussions in D.C. about disposal have been committed to paper, I think it's safe to assume it's not going to get easier with the new regulations.
The $10 million Detroit Edison/Monroe first phase includes equipment to collect in a dry state coal ash produced in two of the station's four combustion units; a 4,000-ton silo; and truck/rail loading equipment for distribution to concrete customers. The second phase is scheduled to begin by 2012, and will encompass collection and storage equipment for two remaining units. Each phase will represent potential capacity upward of 200,000 tons. That volume will join the approximately 7 million tons of concrete-grade fly ash Headwaters ships annually.
The Michigan operations were originally operated by U.S. Ash and Midwest Ash before being purchased in 2000 by ISG Resources, which was later acquired by Headwaters in 2004.