Fly ash is the by-product of combustion of coal. It is the most produced and landfilled waste globally. The novel technological separation solution that Value Ash Technologies NV has developed is the Dusty Plasma Separator (DPS). It can separate fly ash or other dry (waste) powders in ranges of around 1 to 100 micron in 3 to 4 different fractions at once. It does so in a totally closed system. This eliminates the need for expensive filter systems. This also meets occupational health regulations. The only alternate industrial separation method, cyclones, cannot easily separate smooth glassy particles, such as fly ash, below 20 micron. Cyclones are not often used to separate fly ash. Cement particles are on average 25 micron. Adding fractions below 10 micron greatly optimizes the packing effect, density and impermeability of concrete. This increases strength and durability, whilst reducing costs. Superfine fly ash of 10 micron is valuable concrete additives, as is fly ash from 10 to 30 micron. They partially replace cement and save CO2 this way. The DPS separation machines are 20 times less subject to abrasion compared to cyclones. With a low Capex and Opex, they are a good proposition to the market. The DPS separator will contribute to transforming powder wastes such as fly ash, calcined bagger species, milled steel slags and related powders into more usable raw materials at affordable Capex and Opex for the industry.

The need

The customers of the DPS technology are coal/oil shale power stations which produce fly ash and have to dispose of it or find markets for it. Key problems are insufficient fly ash quality (off-standard content of organics, fineness, incompatibility with application e.g. free lime content) and prohibitively costly beneficiation technologies (based on wet or high-temperature treatments) that may impair product quality (agglomeration/dissolution of ultrafine particles). The DPS technology clearly has the potential to solve these needs by dry-separating fly ash in its finest fractions at significantly lower cost.

The world’s major 1450 coal power stations are producing in excess of 600 million tons of fly ash annually. Around 100 million tons are sold to the concrete or cement industry, mostly unsorted. Approximately 100 million tons are used for backfilling of mines, and it is estimated that around 400 million tons or more are landfilled. Gate fees for landfilling fly ash range from EUR 0.5 per ton to EUR 120 per ton in some European countries. The priority of the coal power stations, as well as of other waste producers, is to minimize gate fee costs. They are interested to invest in fly ash separation if the ROI from sales of separated products is 2 to 3 years. For fly ash to be used in concrete it has to conform to a specific chemical, physical and regulatory norms. Of the landfilled fly ash, it is estimated that about 50%, the smallest fractions, would conform to the norms if separated.

About 4 billion tons of cement are produced annually, all used in concrete. Substituting 25% cement in concrete by superfine or fine fly ash, makes the concrete up to 10% stronger, up to 30% more durable, and also saves around 5% costs of the concrete. High rise concrete buildings cannot be built without high-quality fine fly ash. Therefore, there is theoretical full uptake potential for 100 million tons finer and more superfine fly ash provided prices are around ¼ to ½ of cement costs.

Value Ash Technologies primary market is about 500 coal power stations who are landfilling all or most of their 200 million tons of fly ash, of which ~100 million tons could be sold. At EUR 5 million per average DPS installation, this represents a TAM of about EUR 2.500 million for our DPS machines, with annual maintenance and service fees ranging from 5 to 10%. Value Ash Technologies is aiming at 5 to 10% of this potential market the next 10 years, starting with exploration in Eurasia and India.

Value Ash Technologies is currently testing separation of calcined bagger species, milled steel slags, oil shale slags and related powders to assess market potential in these fields.

The solution

Separation of fly ash and similar dry powders in 1 to 100 micron ranges

Value proposition

The DPS technology of Value Ash responds to the strategic challenge of securing supply of technically valuable raw materials at affordable cost for Europe and the rest of the world.

At the same time, it strengthens the raw material processing industry and the European machine building industry by developing key technology, in the first instance for fly ash valorization. In the second instance, for other primary and secondary resources, such as calcined bagger species, milled steel slags, oil shale fly ash and more.

Of the 600 Mt of fly ash produced annually, only 200 Mt are used, mostly unsorted. The remaining 400 Mt are landfilled at large economic and environmental costs. The DPS technology delivers a solution to transform 200 Mt of this landfilled fly ash at least for 50% into valuable concrete fillers that can be marketed profitably. This way Value Ash aims to contribute to a more efficient raw materials sector, by processing landfilled residues into high-value, future-oriented applications.

Besides Value Ash developing the main product, the DPS equipment, a number of accessory technologies, developed by the EIT RawMaterials community and partners, ranging from bioleaching technologies, analysis equipment, upstream and downstream equipment, and others might complement the DPS offering. This will strengthen the EIT RawMaterials community. On a longer term, global coal power stations have to undergo a transformation process of developing energy on a renewable basis. Once relations are established, Value Ash will strive to involve the broader EIT RawMaterials community, such as partners from EIT Climate KIC or KIC InnoergyEnergy, to provide solutions to the coal power industry for this transition.

Therefore, the DPS project is perfectly aligned with the strategic objectives of the EIT RawMaterials community:

  1. Securing a cost-efficient and sustainable supply of raw materials through innovations in recycling fly ash industrial residues.
  2. Designing solutions by supplying raw materials for more performant, more durable products.
  3. Closing material loops by avoiding landfilling and minimizing losses of unused materials along the value chain.
  4. Empowering the European machine building and recycling services industry by developing key technologies useful for European and global industries, jobs, and economic growth.