I just spent an informative weekend in Las Vegas with producers from around the world at the Command Alkon Innovations Conference.  Aside from the new technology and optimization solutions that were discussed, which we’ll have more on later, producers talked about a couple of key issues, one of which is the shortage of fly ash, or at least its unavailability.

Despite an industry-wide effort to make concrete more sustainable, combined with the recent EPA final ruling declaring fly ash non-hazardous, the use of fly ash in concrete mixes is on a steady decrease because there just isn’t enough of it.

According to a report, “We are Running Out of Fly Ash: The Nature of Regional Supply Problems,” almost 1 billion tons of coal is mined each year in the U.S., which produces about 90 million tons of solid byproducts. About 61% of this is fly ash, 22% is bottom ash and slag, and 17% is FGD material. Of the fly ash, about 10 million tons are used offsite; of this about 7.5 million tons are used as high-quality pozzolan in cement and concrete applications. Most of the rest is landfilled or ponded.

This data gives the impression that the pozzolan market in the U.S. is substantially oversupplied. However, in reality, this is not the case. Some regions of the U.S. are oversupplied and some are experiencing chronic shortages. This is particularly true in the Southeast.

Some producers suggested there isn’t really a shortage, only a transportation issue. “The fly ash is there,” they said, “but there aren’t enough drivers to transport it.” But what they may not be aware of is that many coal burning plants are switching to the less expensive natural gas fuel, and older plants are not retrofitted with EPA-compliant scrubbers. It has become a tougher economical decision for power plants to capture fly ash suitable for use in concrete.

Are you experiencing a shortage in your area? If so, what are you doing about it?

While we’re talking about fly ash, here are  7 Stories, Videos That Explain Everything

One last note, the World of Concrete 2016 registration is open. Register today to take advantage of early-bird pricing. Also, if you have an innovative product, remember to enter the 2016 World of Concrete Most Innovative Products Awards; it’s always great to see our industry boast it greatest innovations.