Lafarge Canada and TransAlta Corporation have formed a partnership to promote low-carbon concrete projects in Alberta. As part of this collaboration, they will use fly ash, a waste product from TransAlta's discontinued Canadian coal-fired electricity operations west of Edmonton, to replace cement in concrete production. This initiative is aimed at reducing carbon emissions and making better use of waste materials.
According to Brad Kohl, President and CEO of Lafarge Canada (West), promoting sustainable and innovative initiatives is a significant aspect of their business in Western Canada and Alberta. He believes that there is enormous potential in repurposing materials throughout the construction value chain. Transforming materials, like fly ash, that are dumped into landfills, into a usable construction product is a beneficial solution for all parties involved.
Blain van Melle, Executive Vice President of TransAlta Corporation's Alberta Business, stated that their participation in this project reflects their dedication to promoting innovative solutions that help their customers reduce their environmental impact and achieve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives. Using fly ash to produce concrete offers a valuable opportunity to recycle one of the biggest waste streams in North America. This complements the zero-emissions electricity that they currently supply to Lafarge from their wind energy platform in Alberta.
Before being used in concrete, fly ash that has been landfilled must undergo a beneficiation process. To achieve this, the Ash-TEK Ponded Ash Beneficiation System (PABS) technology will be utilized in the project. The technology has proven to have a low carbon footprint and economical operating cost, as well as producing high quality ash during trials. Lafarge will implement this approach to the process, which includes removing moisture from the ash, milling it, and eliminating excess carbon, to ensure that it meets market expectations and regulatory standards.
Geocycle, a company that offers sustainable waste management services globally, and Lafarge's Canadian subsidiary will also be a part of the project. Geocycle has expertise in handling millions of tons of fly ash in the United States. According to Sophie Wu, the head of Geocycle North America, landfilled fly ash often has excessive carbon content, which can impact the amount of air in concrete. After separating the carbon, the fly ash can be used as a replacement for cement, up to 25% as a standard replacement.
While the use of fly ash in concrete production is not new, the process of beneficiation is precise and specialized. According to Kohl, Lafarge Canada's CEO, the company acknowledges that taking advantage of opportunities to enhance cement is crucial to reducing CO2 emissions. Kohl added that "thinking outside the box" is a fundamental aspect of how they operate their business.
Lafarge Canada received $15 million from the Government of Alberta through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) in November 2021 to advance the project with TransAlta. Kohl said that collaboration is key to innovation, and the support of ERA is crucial to driving progress. Kohl also stated that they are now taking action to make it happen in Alberta, rather than just talking about it.