Incinerator residue piloted as low-carbon cement component

Innovative Ash Solutions (IAS), a Lanarkshire-based materials venture, has today launched a replacement for pulverised fly ash (PFA), a central but increasingly scarce component in cement production.

workers at PFA replacement plant

A 50/50 joint venture between Levenseat Ltd and Organic Innovative Solutions Ltd, IAS aims to transform air pollution control residues (APCR) from municipal and wood biomass incinerators to create a replacement for the ash material.

With approval from SEPA to treat all ash from all EfW facilities, the team is in negotiation with two plants from which they will collect APCR. 

Collected from the residue formed from coal-fired boilers and flue gases, PFA has become increasingly scarce with the closure of many UK coal-fire stations. This has led to an increase in PFA imports, rising from 76,000 tonnes in 2012 to 325,000 tonnes in 2019. IAS’ proposed PFA replacement could ease dependence on imports, while also providing a lower-carbon option for cement. The replacement, IAS notes, is the first to receive the ‘End of Waste’ accreditation from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The PFA replacement will be marketable as a Supplementary Cementitious Material (SCM) for the production of CEMII, the most common form of bagged cement used in construction. It is also usable to make other construction materials, such as mortar, render, screed, and grout.

Following the launch of the product, IAS intends to build three full scale industrial plants over the next five years, with planning permission for the first of these already granted. Initially, the first plant aims to produce up to 54,000 tonnes of PFA replacement annually, with the operation estimated to produce up to 500,000 tonnes of its product each year. 

Looking beyond the UK’s borders, the team has signed an exclusivity licensing agreement with partners in Australia to export the PFA replacement, and is also in discussion with potential investors looking to import their APCR to the Lanarkshire treatment facility.

Robert Gren, Director of Innovative Ash Solutions, said: “We are excited to bring this new product to market. Innovative Ash Solutions are the first and, so far, the only company in the UK to have achieved ‘End of Waste’ accreditation for a PFA replacement for this type of use.

“Our research shows there is potential to produce more than 500,000 tonnes of PFA replacement from UK air pollution control residues every year which would reduce the need for importing materials and support the decarbonisation of cement and concrete products.”

Zero Waste Scotland’s Built Environment Manager, Stephen Boyle, stated: “A circular approach to closing the loop, and therefore keeping resources in use for longer, is necessary to help reduce carbon emissions from the construction industry and to help reach the Scottish Government’s ambitious target to become a net-zero emissions society by 2045. 

“We are pleased to have supported IAS in the development of this innovative PFA replacement, which utilises existing waste streams to keep resources in use for longer.”

Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST)’s Head of Sustainability Programme, Jennifer Smart, commented: “We welcome the development of this new PFA replacement and the opportunities it provides in supporting the construction sector on its net-zero journey.”

Andrew Sullivan, from SEPA’s National Waste Unit, added: “SEPA supports new circular approaches which maintain a high level of environmental protection. IAS has developed a new solution for air pollution control residues, creating a pulverised fuel ash replacement for CEMII cement.

“By achieving ‘end-of-waste’ status, they can produce a recycled product which is no longer subject to waste controls and help reduce the carbon impact of cement use.”