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Southeastern Geographer Vol. 22, No. 1, May 1T82, pp. 1-19 SITING FLY ASH-DERIVED ALUMINA RECOVERY FACILITIES IN WEST VIRGINIA* Gregory A. Limes, Frank J. Calzoneta, and Stuart A. Foster In 1980, over 40 percent of the nation's electricity was generated from coal-fired power plants. New plant orders may increase this capacity by 60 percent. The 90 gigawatts of installed capacity in the southeastern quarter of the nation represent 34 percent of the nation's total. As coal-fired electrical generation contributes a greater proportion of the total U.S. energy supply, the problems associated with burning coal require immediate attention. Coal-fired power plants produce solid, liquid , and gaseous wastes. Although the air pollution effects of acid rainfall and carbon dioxide buildup are of global concern, liquid and solid wastes do not present the potential danger of hazardous wastes from other industries (e.g., chemicals, petroleum refining, nuclear energy). However, solid wastes from power plants are produced in large quantities , contain trace amounts of heavy metals (selenium, cadmium, lead, uranium), and are a disposal nuisance at many locations. As new facilities come on-stream, solid waste disposal assumes more significance as a problem requiring direct attention. The volume of solid waste requiring ultimate disposal can be reduced by recovering the constituent minerals from power plant fly ash, the material comprising the bulk of the solid waste stream. Several techniques are available to recover certain metals from fly ash, relieving solid waste disposal problems. Although the process is more expensive than importing virgin ore, metal recovery from fly ash may reduce the nation's dependence upon foreign metal suppliers. Power plant fly ash is a large potential source of certain metals, par- * This research was supported by the West Virginia University Energy Research Center. The authors express their appreciation to Kathy Romberg, who provided excellent research assistance, and to Jean Gallaher and Carla Uphold, who typed the manuscript. Drs. Elmes and Calzoneta are Assistant Professors of Geography and Research Associates at the Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University, in Morgantown, WV 26506. Mr. Foster is a Graduate Fellow in the Department of Geography at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH 43210. Southeastern Geographer ticularly alumina, magnetite, titanium, and manganese. (1) This study evaluates the results of a model which is designed to measure the extent to which a new metals-recovery industry can penetrate the existing virgin metal-ore supply system. Analysis focuses on West Virginia since it is a prominent coal-producing state and will likely assume greater importance in providing electricity to adjacent states. The availability of primary data sources indicating the characteristics ofWest Virginia power plant waste and the state transportation network was also an important factor in studying this state. Attention is directed to alumina recovery since the nation is heavily dependent upon foreign alumina sources and methods are available to recover this metal from power plant fly ash. The first section of this study summarizes the volume of wastes that are disposed of annually and provides a brief sketch of the nature of virgin alumina and bauxite imports. The next section examines alumina recovery methods and the material and utility demands of the recovery facilities. The third section presents a model for siting alumina recovery facilities adjacent to large West Virginia power plants. Here the flow patterns of fly ash from power plants to recovery facilities and the flow of alumina from recovery facilities to smelters are examined, and the economic geography of the recovery process is compared with that of the virgin ore system. NATURE OF THE PROBLEM. In 1977, approximately 68 million short tons (62 million metric tons) of power plant ash were collected in the United States. Some studies estimate that this figure will rise to over 157 million short tons (148 million metric tons) as coal assumes a greater role in electrical generation. This ash includes bottom ash, boiler slag, and fly ash normally collected at the base of the furnace and with electrostatic precipitators. Scrubber sludge is also expected to pose challenging disposal or recovery problems as more scrubber-equipped power plants become operational. This study focuses on fly ash because it comprises the major ash...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-6929
Print ISSN
0038-366X
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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