Fly Ash: A Revolutionary and Lightweight Building Material

Fly Ash: A Revolutionary and Lightweight Building Material

By Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence Blog

The Fly Ash market size was valued at US$5.482 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 5.93% over the predictive period to reach US$8.204 billion by 2027. Fly ash is a byproduct of pulverized coal combustion in power plants. Mineral impurities in coal (clay, feldspar, quartz, and shale) fuse in suspension during burning and float off with the exhaust gases. The fused material cools and hardens as it rises, forming spherical glassy particles known as fly ash. Electrostatic precipitators or bag filters are used to recover fly ash from exhaust fumes.

Types of Fly Ash

Class F: Particles coated in molten glass are found in Class F fly ash. Sulfate attack, which can develop in fertilized soils or near coastal regions, is considerably reduced as a result of this. Class F is low in calcium and has a carbon level of less than 5%. Class F fly ash is utilized at 15 to 25% by mass of cementitious material doses.

Class C: Class C fly ash is also chemically resistant to expansion. It contains more calcium oxide than Class F and is thus more typically utilized in structural concrete. Class C fly ash is generally made up of high-calcium fly ashes with less than 2% carbon content. Class C fly ash is applied at concentrations ranging from 15 to 40% by mass of cementitious material.

Application in the Construction Industry

The growing construction industry has seen significant developments and advancements in recent times. In certain markets, fly ash may be a cost-effective alternative for Portland cement. Since it is a byproduct and has a low embodied energy (the amount of energy consumed in making and delivering a construction material), fly ash is also considered an environmentally beneficial resource. Portland cement, on the other hand, has a very high embodied energy since it is made with a lot of heat. Fly ash uses less water than Portland cement and is better to work in cold weather. Fly ash is also a non-shrink material and produces a smooth surface with accurate detail. Additionally, it is also a great material to work with since it has a much lesser chance of developing cracks or defects on the surface.

Additionally, fly ash has been known to be used in concrete paving, blended cement, mineral filler for asphalt roads, soil stabilizer, water stabilizer/treatment, etc. Many countries have already started implementing fly ash as an additive in concrete, to strengthen the properties of concrete, at the same time reduce the environmental damage caused by fly ash disposal.

Environmental Concerns of Fly Ash

Developing countries that do not have access to environmentally friendly fuel alternatives use more coal than other developed countries. Most big industries in India use coal as a fuel for production and industrial use. Hence, India currently leads the fly ash production market. However, it produces a lot more material than it can use, leading to an imbalance in production and usage. The main usage of fly ash is in the construction industry, to be used in place of cement for the production of bricks. However, fly ash cannot be completely substituted for cement. Hence, the extra waste fly ash left needs to be disposed of. However, due to the lack of waste sites, India exports its excessive fly ash to Bangladesh. According to the Indian Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways; India exports about 3 million tons of fly ash to Bangladesh through its waterways, where it is used in cement factories.

However, Fly ash exports are unregulated, which leads to the overloading of export ships, resulting in frequent breakdowns and spillages. Fly ash spillages are toxic since it contains various chemicals such as arsenic, aluminum, antimony, barium, cadmium, nickel, lead, etc. According to a study by Healthy Energy Initiative, five ships delivering fly ash containers to Bangladesh sank in the region in 2020. This is a serious threat to the flora and fauna in the region, as well as the people living in the region since it can lead to serious health implications. Moreover, coal combustion industries also pose a threat to the people living in the region. According to a report by the United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA), people living next to a coal disposal site have an increased risk of developing cancer or other serious ailments. It also reports that people that drink water contaminated with arsenic have as much as 1 in 50 a chance of developing cancer.

Asia-Pacific Region to Lead the Market

The Asia-Pacific market has the greatest market share in the Fly Ash industry. The fly ash market is predicted to grow even more due to the region's rapidly increasing industrial sector.

India has been reported to have the largest production of fly ash in the world, followed by China. This is primarily due to the fact that most industries in the region use coal as a primary fuel, leading to the massive production of fly ash in the region. This has led governments to search for better alternatives for the usage and disposal of fly ash and implement certain measures to help in the proper utilization of fly ash in the region. The rising construction industry in the region is the main consumer of fly ash in the region. It is mixed with cement or concrete to provide strength and sturdiness to the material. It is also used in the building of roads, by mixing it with asphalt, and with the introduction of several highway and expressway projects, the market is expected to grow.

The construction business in Qatar is also expanding, owing to the FIFA World Cup set for 2022, which is prompting the development of new infrastructure, buildings, hotels, and highways.

Covid-19 Insight

The COVID-19 outbreak triggered a devastating global economic collapse. Since many countries implemented lockdown measures and social distance rules, most key sectors experienced significant losses. Along with the closure of many major industries, the construction industry also faced a significant slowdown. With construction activities stopped in most parts of the world, the fly ash market suffered huge losses. Since fly ash is a byproduct of coal, and coal is required in a lot of essential industries in developing countries, like electricity production, fly ash production continued to rise. However, with a drop in demand for fly ash, the market suffered. This led to an imbalance in the market, due to continuous supply and minimal demand. This led to many countries disposing of their excess fly ash. However, as the COVID-19 regulations are being lifted, the market has started to re-emerge, and with the increase in demand for construction activities, the market is expected to rise.