Fly ash should be treated as a resource

Fly ash should be treated as a resource
Published: 13 December 2005

"If people can be convinced that use of fly ash can reduce the time for making the concrete, provide more solidity and reduce costs, the day is not far off when India would be able to utilise all 100Mt of fly ash produced by it as building material."

This was stated by Oscar Fernandes, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Statistics and Programme Implementation, Youth Affairs and Sports and Overseas Indian Affairs at the inauguration of the two day National Conference on High Volume Fly-ash Concrete organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and CANMET here today.

Addressing the delegates attending the conference, Fernandes said that there was a time when fly ash was considered a problem for environment and no one knew how to dispose it off. But as the utility of fly ash as a substance that could provide solidity to construction material came to be known, the realization has dawned that "it is a clear case of resource material" he said.

Fernandes also said that one of the major drawbacks in using fly ash for making bricks was logistics since it was difficult to carry it to the place where bricks are made. "If the question of distance could be tackled the day is not far off when not only the 100 million tones of fly ash produces annually would be fully utilized but people would start burning more coal to produce more fly ash" he stated.

Lucie Edwards, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, pointed out that there was a time when fly ash was considered not only a waste but a nuisance. She said that the implementation of the High Volume Fly Ash Concrete (HVFAC) transfer technology project to India jointly implemented by CII and CANMET has changed that perception. She said that such projects were particularly relevant to India which was facing an energy crunch and the added advantage was that use of fly ash also reduced threat to environment to a great degree.

Fernandes said that Portland cement which was mostly used as construction material was relatively "green " material. " "However, the Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) is not so green because the production of each tonne of cement clinker releases approximately similar amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. The current world production of OPC is about 2 billion tonnes and account for five to seven percent of total CO2 emissions of 28 billion tones" he warned.

In this respect he mentioned that India was producing 100Mt of fly ash annually which was expected to reach 180Mt by 2015. Disposal of fly ash was also a growing problem since only 12 per cent of fly ash was currently used, the remainder goes to land fill. He pointed out to a World Bank Report which predicted that by 2015 disposal of fly ash would require 1000 square kilometers of land.

He said that even though a lot of research on fly ash had been started in India, construction with HVFAC had yet to take off in India on a big scale. In this context he mentioned that a project was jointly undertaken by CII along with International Center for Sustainable Development of Cement and Concrete (ICON) CANMET, Canada, HVFAC at Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology CANMET in late 1980s, "which makes high performance concrete, by partial replacement of cement with fly ash. This technology achieves the twin benefits of reducing the amount of cement used and also provides an efficient mechanism for the disposal of fly ash," he said.