Global Gypsum Market to Grow 10% in the Next Decade

Resource: The Future of Gypsum: Market Forecasts to 2016, Smithers Apex

Currently, the global gypsum market is valued at approximately $1.5 billion USD. 60% of this contributed to by the cement industry, while 33% is taken up by plasterboarding. Gypsum’s primary uses are in the settling of retarders (cement), building construction and for conditioning soil and fertilizer in agricultural applications. The 252 million ton per year industry is expecting to grow another $1 billion USD in the next two years and another 1.5billion in the 8 years following, as expressed by Ken Soezen, author of this report.

The pattern of consumption fluctuates geographically. The western world, including the US and large parts of Western Europe, use the product for wallboarding. This is not true for the rest of the world and especially in developing countries such as India and China where drier applications in instruction are not the industry standard yet.

Population growth particularly contributes to the need for gypsum in developing worlds, as the market fluctuates between the need for housing, and therefore cement becomes in higher demand. China and India, where construction and infrastructure work has exploded in recent years, became catalysts for growth in cement production in Asia. In 2012, China alone accounted for 58% of worldwide cement production, with India also making the top of the list at 10%, behind the USA.

The construction industry tends to be very cost conscious as seen in recent shifts towards eco-friendly and cost effective utilization of waste bi-products in the building materials sector.  Gypsum has become an industry favorite due to its recyclability and durability during repeated applications. Gypsum is one of the cheapest alternatives to widely used portland and sand based aggregate cements that have been the industry norm. 

Low Quality of Coal in China: recent studies show

Beijing- China
Pollution control in China has been at the forefront of the environmental reform portion of the latest China Five Year Plan. Coal fired power stations account for a vast majority of air and water pollution. The percentage of pollution that comes from these stations is determined by a few factors. One of these factors is the purity of the coal itself. “Dirty” coal can come from excess sulfur & phenol and generally produces a higher level of ash. Coal ash itself can be highly toxic if the coal is of low quality and is not burned or processed efficiently. 

According to new testing completed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) in the north of China, this “dirty” coal is being commonly used. Samples were taken from areas in and around the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. Samples were collected from over 180 coal distribution centers. In each city, excessive pollutants were found in anywhere from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of all samples. MEP also inspected 10 thermal power coal stations used for residential heating in these areas and found that 7 of them had failed to meet coal quality standards. 

This information comes at a time of interest to the Chinese public as northern China turns on central heating for the winter months, which increases energy demands for power plants. The smog that Beijing and other northern provinces experience year round then thickens due to this increase. As the new Five Year Plan unfolds from the People’s Republic, the issue of clean coal will need to be addressed to fit with the current emphasis on industry reform and environmental sanctions.

Industry Highlights China's Growing Coal Ash Problem

By Michael Standaert

Oct 1st — If you know where to look and what to look for, zooming in on nearly any coal-fired power plant in China from a Google Earth satellite image will yield stark images of leftover residuals from coal combustion piling high in landfills near the facilities.

Up to 1.5 billion metric tons of coal ash—mostly from the bottom ash that falls down after coal is burned, or fly ashthat is captured in the stacks as the particulate matter rises with the heat and later scrubbed out—is stockpiled in China, making it the country's No. 1 industrial solid waste by volume.

“There is a very unique situation with coal ash in China, and unique solutions need to be customized to the problem,” said David Harris, chairman of the Asian Coal Ash Association.

Of the nearly 600 million metric tons generated annually in the country, 30 percent to 40 percent end up in landfills, while the rest is utilized as a component for cement, concrete and building materials such as bricks, fuel for the building boom continuing in the more prosperous eastern part of the country.

By comparison, the U.S. generated around 110 million metric tons of coal ash in 2012.

There are no comprehensive national regulations in China regarding the storage of coal ash that requires bottom lining of landfills to prevent potentially toxic heavy metals from leaching into nearby fields or into groundwater sources, nor are there requirements to cap or cover the ash to prevent blowing dust from getting into the atmosphere.

Some estimates in China show that around 20 percent of the small particulate matter (PM-2.5) in the atmosphere—the particles most damaging to the lungs—is from coal ash blown off of landfills, contributing to air pollution in major northern cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.

The U.S. has regulations to ensure the structural stability of coal ash landfills and to protect groundwater after a number of recent incidents of coal ash spills, including the 2014 Dan River spill from a Duke Energy Facility near Eden, N.C.

Satellite Images

At a coffee shop in the south China city of Shenzhen, where the Asian Coal Ash Association is based, Harris shows Bloomberg BNA satellite images of some of sites, highlighting a coastal area on the west side of Qinzhou Bay, where a facility supplying power to the Guangxi-Zhuang autonomous region sits.

Images seem to show that coal ash is spreading into nearby fields, and Harris said coal ash also is being dumped into the ocean for coastal reclamation for eventual development.

About 1,500 miles due north in Shuozhou, Shanxi province is the heart of the country's coal belt and a region often shrouded in severe air pollution. There, the local municipal government and coal power industry are attempting to change the image of the area and industry, which Greenpeace targeted in a 2010 campaign.

At the time, the environmental group released damaging images of issues at 14 coal power facilities in the area, including coal ash dust blowing off massive landfills.

New Uses

At an annual Asian Coal Ash Association conference from Sept. 22–24 in Shuozhou, Wang Anpang, party secretary of Shuozhou, said the municipality is promoting the utilization of coal ash.

It is establishing three industrial solid waste demonstration clusters with around 50 businesses to pilot techniques for using coal ash, which range from steamed bricks to processing ultrafine fly ash with higher mineral contents that can be used in a variety of industries.

Site Bloomberg BNA visited after the conference showed some of the companies using the ash for bricks and for a stucco material sprayed onto walls.

Ci Yuansheng, an expert on coal ash at the Institute of Technical Information for the Building Materials Industry of China, said about 44 percent of the coal ash being used goes toward making cement, with 28 percent for building materials and 16 percent for concrete.

“This coal ash waste brings a lot of possible environmental risk but also a potential resource,” said Chen Guanhu, vice director of the Shanxi Economic and Information Commission.

Chen said it was not a provincial policy to reduce coal ash waste and to promote its use, but the “low value added and low tech content,” as well as the “small market size” for the companies using the materials, mean that “it is not as widely used around China as it could be. We need more technological innovation to improve the use.”

‘Made in China.'

A national policy to modernize manufacturing called Made in China 2025 that the State Council launched in May could spur further utilization of coal ash, as recycling resources and industrial solid waste were mentioned in the documents, said Li Li, deputy director of the Energy Savings and Resource Center of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

A regional disparity has been created regarding utilization of coal ash, conference speakers said.

While rates of use in the east are at least 80 percent, in the central parts of the country, rates of use range between 30 percent to 80 percent. And in the western region, where more coal-fired power facilities are going into operation in areas such as the Xinjiang-Uighur autonomous region, rates are often less than 30 percent.

Zhai Guanjie, director of the Coal Ash Research Institute at Dezhou University in the eastern province of Shandong, told Bloomberg BNA that in his province “most if not all of the coal ash is being utilized” and construction is the main driver.

Potential Markets

The prime environmental issue with coal ash in China at the moment is dust blown from poorly covered dumpsites.

“Coal ash in China is going to become a bigger issue than it is today,” said Boyd Ramsey, representing the AmericanCoal Ash Association at the conference.

He explained that part of the reason is an unintended consequence of China requiring stronger limits on airborne emissions from coal-fired power stacks. Those emissions controls can result in more fly ash building up in the stacks.

Ramsey's company, GSE Environmental Lining Technology Co. Ltd., has set up operations in Suzhou, near Shanghai, to provide dumpsite protections as they become needed.

Products like cement made of 95 percent fly ash, which is being brought to China by CeraTech Inc., also could help, said company Executive Vice President Mark Wasilko. CeraTech set up a test facility in Guangdong province that was able to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from a coal power facility that needed to add calcium to the combustion process to enhance the fly ash.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Standaert in Shenzhen, China, at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

Asian Coal Ash Association participation in World of Coal Ash

Nashville, Tennessee 

World of Coal Ash, the coal combustion product industry's longest-running international event, drew a record turnout this year with more than 800 attendees participating in short-courses, presentations and the largest ever exhibition held at the Nashville Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The Asian Coal Ash Association participated as an exhibitor at WOCA, promoting the upcoming Coal Ash Asia 2015 event. AsianCAA also assisted in the organisation of a delegation of industry leaders from China, in collaboration with ITIBMI and Coal Ash Solutions Ltd. AsianCAA chairman David Harris also participated as a keynote speaker and panelist in the plenary session.

The record turnout at WOCA 2015 was accompanied by renewed optimism amongst WOCA participants, widely attributed to the US Environmental Protection Agency's December 2014 signing of the final ruling on "Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals". This final rule supports the responsible recycling of CCRs by distinguishing safe, beneficial use from disposal. Following 6 years of extensive study on the effects of coal ash on the environment and public health, the final ruling delivers a degree of regulatory certainty around disposal, transportation and utilisation of coal combustion products. This regulatory clarity provides guidance and mitigates regulatory risk for industry stakeholders looking to make responsible investments in ash management and utilisation.