Energy providers are increasingly replacing aging coal-fired power plants with more diversified energy portfolios. This transition has introduced new challenges as regulations evolve and providers re-evaluate the risks and benefits of the management and environmental stewardship of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) – including adopting beneficial reuse. Understanding that owning a legacy of CCRs may provide both environmental risks and opportunities is an important consideration.
To develop a sustainable and cost-effective management plan for your CCRs that includes beneficial use, consider the following five insights.
01 Beneficial use effectively transforms CCR from waste to resource
USEPA defines beneficial use as the reuse of CCRs in a product that provides a functional benefit; replaces a product made from virgin raw materials, thus conserving natural resources; and meets relevant product specifications and regulatory standards.
- Common beneficial uses for CCR are:
- Filler in concrete, plastics and rubber
- Replacement for cementitious components in concrete or bricks
- Raw material in wallboard production
CCRs are also used in stabilization, land restoration and other sustainable constructive applications.
02 Market demand for CCRs is increasing
Prices and volumes of useable CCRs vary significantly across end-use markets. Well established markets such as concrete products and cement manufacturing can provide historical understanding of market conditions and pricing. New technologies and emerging uses help support market evaluations and future utilization.
According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and American Coal Ash Association (ACAA), the forecasted use of CCRs is expected to grow from 45% in 2013 to 63% by 2033. Supporting data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and US Geological Survey (USGS) related to coal-fired power generation and cement consumption strongly indicate a growing market for CCRs.
Useable CCRs in ponds and landfills are already considered a resource and harvested for beneficial use. Increased harvesting is anticipated to support market demand.
03 Beneficial use contributes to the triple bottom line
The value in beneficial use goes beyond market price. Incorporating beneficial use as a CCR management strategy can create positive contributions to overall corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, including:
- Reducing environmental risks and liabilities by reducing the volume of CCRs requiring management and storage
- Creating long-term, positive, economic impact within surrounding communities by providing new opportunities for job creation, employee retention and tax revenue
- Supporting industry progress toward environmentally responsible practices by supplying a recycled resource that helps to improve overall sustainability of construction, manufacturing and transportation projects
- Supporting regional industry and manufacturing progress by lowering the cost of construction materials through reducing the need to import or transport materials from distant sources