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Consumers Energy Making Flyash Into Useful Products
WEST OLIVE — A byproduct that Consumers Energy Co. for years has placed in a dump is increasingly going toward producing road and building products, as a partnership between the utility and a Utah firm steps up production.
ISG Resources Inc. markets the waste flyash generated at Consumers Energy's five coal-fired power plants in Michigan for use in road asphalt and cement. Consumers Energy generates about 290,000 tons of flyash annually, only a small portion of which has ever been marketed.
At Consumers' J.H. Campbell Generating Complex in West Olive, the utility's largest coal-fired plant, the goal is to have 50 percent of the flyash generated annually marketed by ISG. The Campbell Complex for years has recycled about 15 percent or less of its flyash and is just beginning to see ISG's operations take off toward its goal.
"We actually are starting to get to the point where it should start really taking off. It should provide some really good benefits," said Dennis Dobbs, a senior engineer with Consumers' Plant Operations and Support Group in Jackson.
Consumers Energy last year sold just 13 percent of the flyash generated systemwide to firms that marketed it for use in producing road asphalt and concrete building materials. The goal is to grow that to 35 percent systemwide, Dobbs said.
ISG and Consumers, which are splitting revenues from a contract signed last September, hope to eventually have as much as 75 percent of the utility's flyash marketed by 2004, greatly reducing the amount of landfill space needed for its disposal. Neither company would disclose financial terms of the agreement.
ISG has been able to open up more markets for the flyash as cement companies in recent years became more open to its use in making concrete.
"It's become more widely acceptable as an ingredient," said Mike Adams, who heads Salt Lake City, Utah-based ISG's operations in Michigan.
Helping the marketing venture with ISG is Consumers Energy's effort to burn more low-sulfur coal from western states in order to comply with the federal Clean Air Act. Low-sulfur coal produces a better grade of flyash that is easier to use in road and building materials, Dobbs said.