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Saving Billions with Fly Ash

What is fly ash, you may ask? Have you ever heard of the Roman Pantheon?  It stands today because it was built with volcanic ash (a.k.a. fly ash). Similarly, bridges built with fly ash can be designed to last for a century and highways for 80 years. Fly ash can double the lifespan of a construction or infrastructure project; significantly lower maintenance costs; allow more roads, bridges and buildings to be built on fewer dollars; and ultimately create more jobs.

Why is fly ash important to both Florida and the United States?

According to Mike Murtha, President of the Florida Concrete and Products Association, “Currently, the federal transportation committee is considering an amendment allowing fly ash to continue to be used. This amendment is critical for Florida. Without this amendment, the fly ash industry will be heavily over-regulated by the federal government. If the industry is washed out it would cost 30,000 Floridians their jobs.”

The federal transportation bill is set to be decided on by the end of June, so this is a hot topic for the building industry. From a study done by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), recycled fly ash is used in 95% of Florida’s concrete products that build transportation infrastructure projects all across the state. The use of recycled fly ash concrete has saved the state more than a $180 million over the span of five years as it makes structures stronger and longer lasting, as well as decreases the need to mine virgin resources from the ground.

Where does fly ash come from?

Fly ash is one of the residues generated in combustion, and comprises the fine particles that rise with the flue gases. In an industrial context, fly ash usually refers to ash produced during combustion of coal. Fly ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys of coal-fired power plants, and together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the furnace is in this case jointly known as coal ash.

Coal has become a target for environmentalists, President Obama, and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Coal-fired plants in Florida and across America are not being built, closing or converting to natural gas plants. As this occurs, fly ash is becoming scarce.

According to Murtha, “Fly ash is crucial to American transportation infrastructure — in 2010 alone, more than 55 million tons of fly ash was recycled for construction purposes. Concrete represents 15 percent of the total cost of building and maintaining transportation infrastructure in the United States each year. More than 75 percent of that concrete — $9.9 billion worth — utilizes fly ash as a partial cement replacement blend. In some states, fly ash is used for virtually all concrete projects. Without fly ash, many of our nation’s largest transportation projects would not have been possible.”

The cost of closing coal fired plants has other implications. Fly ash is one of them.

WATCH DOG RADIO – FLORIDA: Mike Murtha, President of the Florida Concrete and Products Association, will be a guest on Watch Dog Radio – Florida on Wednesday, June 27th from 11:40 to Noon EST. You may tune in on WWPR AM 1490 or listen to the live stream over the Internet at www.DrRichShow.com.