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Book Chapter

Geochemistry of leachates from coal ash

By
D. A. Spears
D. A. Spears
Centre for Analytical Sciences, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK d.a.spears@sheffield.ac.uk
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S. Lee
S. Lee
Department of Environmental Engineering, The Catholic University of Korea, Wonmi-Gu, Buchon-City, Gyonggi-Do, Korea
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Published:
January 01, 2004

Abstract

The combustion of coal around the world for power generation produces huge volumes of fly ash. In Europe alone this amounted to about 40 Mt in 2000 of which less than 50% was utilized. The waste ends in lagoons, ash mounds, and landfill sites. Coal ashes have high concentrations of many trace elements, some of which are of environmental concern. Although the origin of elements in coals is not considered in this chapter, other aspects of the geochemistry are, and in particular the location of elements within the coal as this influences the behaviour of elements during combustion. During combustion many elements are volatile and are concentrated on the surfaces of the ash particles. Analyses of input coal and combustion residues from Eggborough power station (UK) demonstrate retention of the majority of elements in the solid combustion products, and analyses of size-fractionated fly ash have enabled the percentage surface association to be calculated, which for elements such as As and Mo is considerable. A consideration of the general leaching behaviour leads to the conclusion that it is the surface-associated elements that are most susceptible to leaching in the aqeous environment. The pH is an important control on trace element mobility in water, and in leachates from fly ash ranges from 3.3 to 12.3. High-sulphur coals generate acidic leachates, but not exclusively as the laboratory and field data demonstrate in case studies on UK coals. Batch and column leaching tests on fly ashes are reviewed and data presented for fresh fly ash and weathered fly ashes from two UK mounds dating back 17 and 40 years. The weathered ashes do have lower leachate concentrations than the fresh ash, but in spite of their ages they would not be considered to be inert. The batch leaching tests are of value in simulating high liquid-to-solid ratios encountered in ash lagoons, whereas the column leaching tests relate more closely to ash mounds. Finally, the results of field studies are reviewed and data presented for samples from boreholes in the two ash mounds. Analyses of the ash and extracted porewaters demonstrate depth-related changes due to reaction of the ash with the infiltrating water and whether or not equilibrium was established. Calculations demonstrate that the porewaters achieve saturation with respect to gypsum at depth in the boreholes. Infiltration over the years has led to detectable changes in the concentrations of some of the major elements in the bulk ash, such as Ca, and this enables realistic infiltration rates to be calculated. However, there are not comparable changes in the concentrations of the trace elements in the ash because the rate at which elements are being removed in solution is not sufficiently great.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Energy, Waste and the Environment: a Geochemical Perspective

R. Gieré
R. Gieré
Universität Freiburg, Germany
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P. Stille
P. Stille
ULP-École et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre-CNRS, Strasbourg, France
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Geological Society of London
Volume
236
ISBN electronic:
9781862394841
Publication date:
January 01, 2004

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