BG&E finding profit in coal ash Making concrete blocks may save BG&E $24 million.

July 05, 1991|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has signed a contract with a Virginia company to turn much of the coal ash from its Brandon Shores power plant into aggregate for use in concrete blocks.

This is the first large-scale attempt by BG&E to convert the byproduct from its coal-fired plants into construction material. It is expected to save the utility $24 million over the next 10 years by avoiding costs associated with current disposal methods.

Under the agreement with Agglite Corp. of Charlottesville, Va., BG&E will provide the real estate for the facility at no cost during the 10-year contract, according to Monika S. Bay, BG&E's supervisor of land-use management. This arrangement can be extended by mutual agreement, she says.

Agglite will own and operate the facility at its own cost, Bay says. There also is a fee agreement involving the actual ash, but she declines to give details, saying it is confidential.

"It's a win situation for everybody involved and we are trying to help the environment at the same time," says Peter W. Schmidt, president of Agglite. The company will be investing about $4 million in the operation, he says.

Construction of the facility at the Brandon Shores plant is expected to begin late this year and should begin operating next summer, BG&E says.

The operation will handle about 200,000 tons of the 360,000 tons of coal ash generated each year by the Brandon Shores plant, Bay says. The facility could handle more, but production is limited by market considerations, she says.

BG&E now disposes of most of the 500,000 tons of ash from its three Maryland coal-fired plants by using it as structural fill at the company's Brandon Woods Energy Business Park development, which is across Smallwood Road from the Brandon Shores plant in Anne Arundel County. The area is intended for a light industrial park and businesses are already occupying part of the site.

Coal ash will continue to go to that 200-acre site, which is scheduled to be completed by 1992, Bay says. After that, coal ash will be used as fill at the adjacent Chestnut Hill Farm development, which will also be a light industrial park eventually, she said.

Residents around Brandon Woods have objected for the last several years to using the ash as fill. They are concerned about the possibility of future environment problems and have complained about the dirt and noise generated by the operation currently used to handle the ash, according to Mary M. Rosso, president of Maryland Waste Coalition, a statewide environmental group.

BG&E has said the material is not classified as a hazardous substance and it is safe. The developments have received all necessary government approvals.

Because of the new aggregate operation, BG&E will be able to save millions of dollars that it would have spent on buying new property and burying the ash.

Bay says about 20,000 tons of the ash each year goes to construction companies to be used as fill in various projects.

The aggregate will be made by mixing the ash from the coal-fired plant with Portland cement and a binding agent using a patented process. The mixture is then turned into pellets by passing it through an inclined rotating disc. The pellets then dry at room temperature. There are no emissions from the aggregate operation.

The pellets can be used to make lightweight concrete blocks, which are at least as strong as standard masonry blocks, according to a BG&E news release.

Agglite already has an aggregate operation at a Virginia Power ++ Co. plant in Chesapeake, Va.

On May 28, BG&E started Unit Two of the Brandon Shores plant. The $662 million operation can produce 642 megawatts. The Unit One coal-fired generator at Brandon Shores began producing electricity in 1984.

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