Georgia Power joins initiative to research recycle uses for coal ash

Georgia Power sign at Plant McDonough-Atkinson in Cobb County accompanying article about restory powerGeorgia Power sign at Plant McDonough-Atkinson in Cobb County (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Coal ash has been a big issue in Cobb County. The toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants creates a disposal problem, and a large quantity of it is stored at Georgia Power’s Plant McDonough-Atkinson on the Chattahoochee River near Smyrna.

Plant McDonough-Atkinson is no longer a coal-burning plant, but the coal ash remains, and has been a point of contention between the company on the one hand and environmentalists and members of the Georgia legislature on the other.

Today Georgia Power announced a research project to find recycle uses for the substance, and you can read more about it in the press release reprinted below:

ATLANTA – August 10, 2021 – Georgia Power, in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Southern Company, marked the opening earlier this year of the first Ash Beneficial Use Center (ABUC). The ABUC will host pilot projects and lead continued testing of technologies to potentially further develop useful products from recycled coal combustion products (CCPs) such as coal ash.

This facility is located at Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen and will allow for testing of pilot project technologies to increase the beneficial use of coal ash. Activities that will take place at this center include reviewing ways to optimize coal ash characteristics to better fit commercial applications, speeding and facilitating development of emerging beneficial-use technologies, understanding performance of re-use products and developing realistic cost profiles.

“As a part of our ash pond closure efforts, Georgia Power is always looking for opportunities to use coal ash that are not only beneficial to our customers, but for our communities and environment,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of environmental and natural resources for Georgia Power. “The Ash Beneficial Use Center is paving the way for the latest coal ash technologies. We hope to see closed ash ponds and landfills become resources as new and improved uses are developed and proven through this center.”

Today, Georgia Power already recycles more than 85 percent of all ash and gypsum, including more than 95 percent of fly ash, it produces from current operations for various beneficial reuses such as concrete production as well as other construction products.

“Developing cost-effective technologies to recycle coal ash is an important aspect of the clean energy transition,” said Neva Espinoza, EPRI vice president of energy supply and low-carbon resources. “This unique research center provides an opportunity for utilities, researchers, and vendors to collaborate and advance technologies from benchtop to commercial operation.” 

By promoting advancements in beneficial use processes and technologies, this center will ultimately provide economic and environmental benefits by bringing cost-effective technologies to market and increasing the potential value of ash and other CCPs stored in landfills or ash ponds. This will result in long-term economic and environmental benefits to customers through the increased beneficial use of CCPs.

Research and larger-scale engineering tests and demonstrations are necessary to further develop advanced processes and beneficial use technologies that could increase the opportunities for CCP use. Since current CCPs are primarily supplied by operating power plants, this center aims to develop new technologies or processes that expand beneficial use applications and potential markets.

Mitchell Reuse Project

At Georgia Power’s Plant Mitchell, an ash beneficial use project, is removing approximately two million tons of stored coal ash from the existing ash ponds at the retired coal plant for use in Portland cement manufacturing. The project at Plant Mitchell marks the first time that stored ash from existing ash ponds at sites in Georgia is being excavated for beneficial use as part of an ash pond closure project. Georgia Power continues to look for additional opportunities similar to Plant Mitchell to beneficiate CCPs at other plant as we proceed with ash pond closures.