Our Matthew Eynon recently published a post on LinkedIn discussing the circular economy and geohazard management in South Wales. See below:
In the last week it has been announced that Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan is to downgrade operations due to ‘challenging market conditions’ (Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-36132870) and from April 2017 will only generate electricity when needed, i.e. predominantly during winter. The last few days in South Wales has also seen climate protesters occupying the coal mine at Ffos Y Fran under the #EndCoal banner (Ref:http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2016/may/03/climate-protesters-occupy-uks-largest-opencast-coal-mine-in-pictures).
It is obvious that there are huge pressures on the coal and energy industry in the UK due to global commercial, environmental and social realities. These are unlikely to change significantly in the short term.
A major by-product from coal fired power stations is Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA) and this is a key recycled aggregate in the construction industry, which has large environmental and economic benefits. Given its pozzolanic nature, PFA is used in low carbon cement, concrete and as a major component in the grout mixture used for stabilising historical coal mineworkings; typically for new developments where there is a risk of subsidence at the surface, utilising the WRAP protocol to meet the End of Waste criteria (Ref:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/quality-protocol-pulverised-fuel-ash-pfa-and-furnace-bottom-ash-fba).
We have seen an increase in PFA costs through 2016 so far and, based on the forecast restriction of supply, can expect this cost increase to accelerate, as has been experienced in Scotland in recent times since the closure of Cockenzie power station in 2013.
What is the likely overall impact of restricted supply of PFA on the construction industry in South Wales and other local coalfields going to be? Will this drive research into suitable alternatives (virgin and recycled)?
It may be that the circular economy may not provide immediate suitable recycled aggregates, so virgin products could be necessary until materials research becomes a practical reality. So, for the short-medium term at least, expect an increase in mineworks stabilisation project costs until the supply and demand balance is restored.
We foresee that contract terms for mineworks stabilisation projects will become an important issue over coming months as predicting and providing certainty on PFA costs may be challenging to those unaware of this issue. We are currently reviewing contracts for a range of live projects and implementing cost sensitivity assessments linked to this matter.
Planning for mineworks stabilisation projects during the cold months may become a reality for large or marginal sites as one way to address the peaks and troughs of supply/demand. This issue may also see some developments becoming unviable through a difficult period of austerity until land values or other commercial aspects, including new aggregate sources, redress the balance.