Elk River, Minn. (July 12, 2004) - A potential increase in demand for fly ash – due to shortages of Portland cement in many parts of the nation this summer – could have a positive impact on the environment.
“If more fly ash is used to replace a portion of cement in concrete production, we will see two primary environmental benefits,” says Al Christianson, Great River Energy’s North Dakota business services representative.
Twenty-three states – including the Dakotas and Minnesota – are experiencing tight supplies of cement, according to the Portland Cement Association.
The shortages have emerged as the domestic consumption of cement increases with the economic recovery. In addition, booming construction economies in China and elsewhere have tied up transportation resources, restricting America’s access to imported cement.
Great River Energy produces fly ash at its Coal Creek Station near Underwood, N.D. That product can be used in conjunction with cement to make concrete that is stronger and more durable than concrete made with cement alone. In the process, fly ash can replace a portion of cement, reducing demand for the material.
In North Dakota and Minnesota – where Great River Energy and fly ash marketer ISG Resources have invested heavily in transportation and storage assets – many concrete producers are already familiar with the benefits, often using performance-enhancing fly ash to replace 30 percent or more of the Portland cement.
“Fly ash is not the cure for the current cement shortage. It only works in tandem with cement and cannot replace it entirely,” says Christianson. “Furthermore, transportation delays caused by the cement shortage can also impede rapid expansion of fly ash markets.”
However, the current situation presents an opportunity for concrete users to learn more about proper use of higher volumes of fly ash in concrete. That education will continue to boost fly ash use long after the current cement shortages disappear.
Since 2003, Great River Energy has been a Champion of EPA’s Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) to promote the benefits of coal combustion products – including fly ash.
As a C2P2 Champion, Great River Energy has developed and committed to goals to increase the use of fly ash. Great River Energy produces about 440,000 tons of marketable fly ash per year at its Coal Creek Station. Current sales are 325,000 tons per year and have steadily increased in recent years, according to Christianson. In fact, sales were a record 55,583 tons in June 2003, up from the previous record of 54,222 tons in July 2003.
Last year, Great River Energy built a fly ash dome – with a capacity of 85,000 tons – to story fly ash during the winter months when construction activity slows down.
Great River Energy is a generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale electric energy and related services to 28 distribution cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin.