Ash is the 21st century’s next big thing says SACAA
With a little innovation and a sound business plan any South African stands to make a fortune out of the millions of tons of coal ash produced by the country’s generators annually.
With mountains of ash available at all of South Africa’s coal-fired power stations, Eskom, Sasol and other smaller producers, there is no shortage of supply and anyone wishing to make use of the ‘Grey Gold’ is likely to get it at little or no cost provided they can prove that they have viable usage and that their operation will generate revenue and jobs.
Already 10% of the total 50-million tons of ash produced per year is used in the manufacture of cement powder and concrete bricks for the building industry, as well as being used to treat acid mine drainage and remediate soil for agriculture and other land uses. However, experts have identified a host of other uses including alternative building products, volumisers for plastics manufacture, contouring for road, rail and landscaping infrastructure, and many of other uses.
Now, with Government’s assistance, the South African Coal Ash Association (SACAA) has been given a target to increase ash usage to 20% of offtake and to create 26,000 new jobs within the next five years. In addition, start-up ash operations can expect assistance from Government, generators, SACAA and academics to extract the maximum potential out of ideas deemed to be viable.
SACAA general manager, Mark Hunter, says the association is looking for industrial entrepreneurs to assist in identifying and developing viable business opportunities for the use of waste ash generated by producers. As the second biggest waste stream (after organic waste that is sent to landfill), coal ash is becoming a headache for the country as space to dump the ash is running out.
He states that reaching the 20% target is not only possible, but probable if more viable alternatives can be found to dumping. This will require close cooperation between role players and speedy facilitation between Government and other role-players who also fully understand the urgency of the matter and will likely pull together to make it happen.
“First, we need ash to be excluded from the classification of hazardous waste. Extensive research has shown that there are many applications of ash which are not harmful to the environment or health. Next, we will need to continue working with formal industries, such as mining, construction and the cement industries, to explore all possible avenues to utilise ash.
“Simultaneously, we will also engage with scientists and entrepreneurs to identify areas where ash can be used as additives in manufacturing processes and as an end product. Then the race will be on to industrialise these and we will facilitate and assist in every way to make sure it is successful.
“As a part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Phakisa program to reduce waste to landfill/ash dump/dam, as well as create sustainable employment, we are confident of Government’s full backing and that we will make a success of the project. We therefore call on creative, technical and business people as well as entrepreneurs, to come forward and be a part of the solution,” says Mark.
SACAA is the official industry representative association for ash producers, marketers, users and individuals involved throughout the entire ash supply chain. Producer members include Eskom, Sasol and Kelvin Power station. Associate members include Ash Resources, Ulula Ash, Afrimat, Afrisam Cement, Kwikbuild Cement, PPC Cement, Sephaku Cement, NCP Cement and is supported by research organisations including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), consultants and academics.