Energy complex reuses coal ash

Lynn Good - Duke Energy CEO.

While the problem of coal ash storage has become a national issue for Duke Energy, 100 percent of the byproduct produced by the Crystal River Energy Complex is reused.

Byproducts from the coal plant that supply two area electric cooperatives are reused.

A coal ash spill into a North Carolina river in February put the utility in the spotlight, prompting calls for tougher federal standards on storing and handling the byproduct.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good addressed the issue in a speech last week posted on YouTube.

“We have been storing ash for nine decades,” she said. “There are 650 ash basins at utility power plants across the U.S.” The ash is stored in landfills or ponds.

Earlier, Duke had announced it would do an internal review of every company ash basin and engage independent engineers to assess all of them. The work is expected to be completed by May 31 and will include Florida.

Last week, Duke filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its coal plants and ash basins, including Crystal River. 

According to the report Duke has two active coal ash basins totaling 41 acres at its complex in northwest Citrus County, plus one inactive basin and one semi-active basin, which no longer receives coal ash.

Monday, Duke spokesman Sterling Ivy said the company no longer uses coal ash ponds in Florida.

“The four coal units at the Crystal River Energy Complex manage both fly ash and bottom ash dry, in an onsite landfill,” he said. “The two ash ponds that were previously permitted were excavated over several years, with material moved to the landfill. 

“The landfill has lined and unlined sections, depending on the regulations at their time of construction.”

He said Duke currently partners with ash marketing companies to beneficially reuse coal ash produced by its power-generating stations.

“For example,” he explained, “in 2012 and 2013 the company has reused more than 100 percent of the coal ash produced at the Crystal River Energy Complex in ready-mix concrete and the production of Portland Cement.”

Synthetic gypsum, another coal plant byproduct, comes from the scrubbers at Crystal River coal units 4 and 5. It’s used in wallboard, cement and fertilizer. 

Seminole Electric Cooperative, which provides power to Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and Sumter Electric Cooperative, also markets byproducts from its coal-fired power plant.

Seminole spokeswoman Jennifer Taylor said its flue gas desulfurization (FGD) materials are converted into synthetic gypsum and sold to Continental Building Products — a wallboard production facility — specifically constructed in 2000 to utilize the synthetic gypsum from Seminole’s coal-fired plant.

“Since that time, more than 6 million tons of FGD have been converted to wallboard material.” She said. “Seminole also recycles the facility’s bottom ash to make stronger and lighter concrete block.” 

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com

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