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Potential Impacts of the Draft Amendments to the Fly Ash Regulation, 1999. Part 1: Is the quantity of available fly ash sufficient to meet brick demand in the country?

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) through a notification dated 25th February 2019 has proposed amendments in the existing regulation (S.O. 763(E) dated 14th September 1999) to promote utilization of fly ash in the country. The Ministry will consider any objections or suggestions received during a period of sixty days on the draft amendments in the regulation.

This is the first article of a series in which the Brickguru team would be analyzing the potential impacts and feasibility of the various provisions of the proposed amendments in the fly ash regulation. The purpose of these articles is to facilitate an informed debate on the proposed amendments. In this article we examine the proposed amendment from the point of fly ash availability to meet the demand for bricks in the country.

 

What is the availability and utilization of fly ash from thermal power plants?

As per the latest data provided by Central Electricity Authority (CEA) [1], India generated 196 million tons (MT) of fly ash from thermal power plants in 2017-18 out of which 131 million tons (67% of the total fly ash generated) was utilized.

 

What are the main proposed amendments to the Fly Ash Regulation, 1999?

The proposed amendments are focused towards increasing the fly ash utilization in the production of bricks and blocks. India currently produces around 25,000-30,000 crore bricks per year, out of which around 80% of the production is of burnt/red clay bricks, and less than 10% is contributed by fly ash bricks and blocks. The amendment aims at replacing the majority of burnt/red clay brick production in the country with fly ash bricks and blocks (having minimum 50% fly ash by weight). To achieve this objective, the draft has two main proposals.

a) Mandating red clay brick manufacturing units to shift to fly ash brick manufacturing

The regulation proposes that within a 300 km radius of a coal or lignite based thermal power plant, no new red clay brick kiln shall be installed, and all existing red clay brick kilns located within 300 km shall be converted to fly ash brick or block manufacturing unit within one year. If we draw a 300 km radius around thermal power plants on a map of India, it practically covers the entire country (barring some parts of North-East India and the Himalayan region). Thus, in practice the regulation proposes that 150,000-200,000 existing red clay brick making units (having annual production capacity of 20,000- 25,000 crore bricks/year) should change their manufacturing technology and shift to fly ash brick and block manufacturing within one year.

Source: Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

b) Mandating thermal power plants to supply fly ash to fly ash brick manufacturing units

The draft regulation proposes mandatory requirements on power plants:

  • Thermal power plants to make available at least 20% of dry ESP fly ash to units manufacturing fly ash bricks, blocks and tiles.
  • Thermal power plants to supply fly ash at almost zero price (@ Rs 1/ton) as well as to bear the full cost of transportation of fly ash to fly ash brick manufacturing units located up to 300 km from the power plant.

 

Analysis of fly ash brick production potential under various scenarios

The following analysis examines fly ash brick production potential under various scenarios and the feasibility of replacing burnt clay bricks by fly ash bricks and/or blocks.

 

Scenario 1: 20% of the total annual fly ash generation is utilized for the production of bricks

If one fly ash brick (size: 230 x 110 x 70 mm) is assumed to have a weight of 2.8 kg and consist of 50% by weight of fly ash, then the quantity of fly ash that will get consumed in producing one fly ash brick will be 1.4 kg. If 20% of the total annual fly ash generation in the country i.e. 39 million tons (in 2017-18) is utilized for the manufacturing of bricks, the total number of bricks produced using fly ash would be 2,800 crore bricks/year. As 9% of the fly ash is already being utilized resulting in production of 1,300 crore fly ash bricks, the additional fly ash brick production would be 1,500 crore bricks. This additional production would result in replacement of only around 6-7% of the current production of red/burnt clay bricks by fly ash bricks.

 

Scenario 2: 100% of the unutilized annual fly ash generation (or 33% of the total annual fly ash generation) is utilized for the production of bricks

Going beyond the proposed regulation, if we assume that the entire unutilized annual fly ash generation (or 33% of the total annual fly ash generation i.e. 65 million tons in 2017-18) is used for the production of bricks, it would result in production of 4,600 crore additional fly ash bricks. This additional production would result in replacement of only around 20 % of the current production of red/burnt clay bricks by fly ash bricks.

 

Scenario 3: Utilization of Pond Ash

Till now we have analyzed the utilization of the annual fly ash generation/ dry ESP fly ash available as the draft amendment is only concerned about this. In addition to annual fly ash generation, pond ash (fly ash and bottom ash stored in ash ponds) is also available and several stakeholders may have an interest to know the potential of fly ash brick production using this pond ash. Based on CEA data, the quantity of pond ash available is estimated at 1,397 million tons. If it is assumed that 50% of the total available pond ash will be made available for making fly ash bricks it would result in the production of around 50,000 crore bricks or equivalent to 2 years production of burnt/red clay bricks for the country.

 

Conclusions

The draft amendment intends to shift the entire red/burnt clay production to fly ash bricks and blocks in 300 km radius of thermal power plants. The analysis shows that the quantity of fly ash that could be made available for the units manufacturing bricks, will be sufficient only to replace a fraction (6 to 20%) of the current burnt/red clay brick production in the country. Even reaching these replacement levels will be challenging due to regional disparities in the availability of fly ash and demand for bricks. Steady increase in demand for bricks till 2050 and stagnation in coal based thermal power generation in the near future may make meeting these replacement levels even more challenging.

In the light of the above findings, the proposal that “No new red clay brick kiln shall be installed within the 300 km radius from a coal or lignite based thermal power plant after publication of this notification. The existing red clay brick kilns located within 300 km shall be converted into fly ash based bricks or blocks or tiles manufacturing unit within one year” does not seem to be a feasible option.

(To download a document with more details and additional analysis, click here.)

(In the next article we will be exploring the energy and environment impacts of transporting fly ash. Any comments on this article can be sent to mailbox@brickguru.in and sameer@gkspl.in).

 

References

1. CEA, 2018a. Report on Fly Ash Generation at coal/lignite based thermal power stations and it’s utilization in the country for the year 2017-18. Central Electricity Authority, Ministry of Power, Govt of India, New Delhi, December 2018.

2. CEA, 2018b. National Electricity Plan (Volume 1: Generation). Central Electricity Authority, Ministry of Power, Govt of India, New Delhi, January 2018.

3. BMTPC, 2018. Building Materials and Housing Technologies for Sustainable Development (Editors: Shailesh Kr. Agarwal, S.K. Gupta and Dalip Kumar). Proceedings of the National Seminar on Emerging Building Materials and Construction Technologies, February 22-23, 2018, New Delhi organized by the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council – BMTPC (pp 294-306).

Dr. Sameer Maithel

Sameer Maithel

The writer is the Director of
Greentech Knowledge Solutions Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi

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Friday 15 March 2019
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