Coal Phase-Out: No More By-Products for the Construction Industry
BauMineral is working on sustainable CO2-neutral replacement products
The coal phase-out is taking us a step closer to decarbonization. But what will happen when the by-products of coal combustion that are traditionally made into low-carbon building materials are no longer available? The coal fly ash produced during flue gas purification in coal-fired power plants, for example, has been a mainstay of the building materials industry for more than 50 years. The 1.3 million metric tons of flue ash still available in Germany in 2020 will almost certainly be completely exhausted over the coming years. In concrete production, coal fly ash is substituted for part of the cement, as manufacturing cement is associated with very high CO2 emissions. Other building products that can replace cement and have low emissions comparable to flue ash are currently available neither in the required quantity nor in broadly similar conditions. "More and more coal-fired power plants are being shut down to save the climate. Now we need to work out a sustainable way forward so that phasing out coal doesn't have a negative impact on the CO2emissions produced by other industries," says Dirk Brandenburger, Head of Sales at BauMineral.
There is a clear need for alternative solutions to coal by-products in order to decarbonize the building materials industry after phasing out coal. As a fully owned subsidiary of Uniper, BauMineral is already making the switch. With more than 50 years experience in marketing the by-products of coal-fired power plants to the construction and building materials industry, the company is already working hard on strategies to align itself with the changing market. The many years of experience and expertise it has acquired in this sector are helping to develop innovative replacement products for the industry. BauMineral has been shaping the course of coal by-products—from their origins in the power plant to their use in the construction industry—for many years now by means of its own building materials laboratory, its own fleet of special vehicles, a mixing and processing plant, and comprehensive sales support from both a technical and logistical point of view. Being able to continue offering low-carbon building materials to the market after phasing out coal will require flexibility and creativity. For example, BauMineral aims to reduce the additional CO2 emissions in the building materials sector associated with the coal phase-out back to their original level.
"Doing this will require a product that can serve the same market as coal fly ash. The material should not cost more than cement manufacture; it needs to have similar characteristics to flue ash and be available in large quantities wherever it is needed. We are well on our way to pursuing a new strategy and are working on the efficient use of concrete additives," says Dirk Brandenburger. A further goal is to bind CO2 at mineral level and offer the resulting mineral to the construction and building materials industry as an aggregate. This would bind the CO2 permanently and remove it from the atmosphere. We would remain true to our name and supply minerals for the construction industry! That is our vision.
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