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Transforming fly ash waste from coal-fired power plants into lightweight engineered sand for multiple applications

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - SMARTSAND (Transforming fly ash waste from coal-fired power plants into lightweight engineered sand formultiple applications)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-10-01 al 2020-05-31

According to United Nations, 50 billion tons of sand is mined every year causing huge environmental problem on the local surroundings. For example, stripping sand from rivers leads to bank erosion and lowering groundwater while, removing sand from coastal areas causing shoreline erosions, threating biodiversity and islands disappearances. Unfortunately, these problems are only going to increase in the future as the rate of consumption of sand is twice than the rate nature produces it. At the same time, due to change in the climate and rain pattern production of natural sand is decreasing. Ironically, sand from desert can’t be used due to its geometry.

On the other hand, worldwide over 250 million tons of unused fly ash and related wastes are disposed or landfilled causing groundwater contamination, air pollution and sometime dam spill. Currently 256 coal-fired power plants are still in operation in EU, producing and landfilling or depositing ashes. Their gradual phasing out across EU will create the need for local employment support and their environmental legacy of coal ash deposition will remain; 150 million tons of pond ash tailings in the UK, 60 million tons in Eastern Europe and over 500 million tons of stabilised ash in Germany and Poland. There is a need for innovation that can answer to the socio-economic and environmental challenges in regions of operating, recently closed, or about-to-close coal-fired power plants in EU.
ZaaK Technologies GmbH (ZaaK) is an eco-innovative SME dedicated to the development and exploitation of technologies which upcycle industrial inorganic by-products and wastes into value-added building material. Our core technologies manage, treat and exploit industrial inorganic by-products and wastes to deliver environmentally friendly commercial solutions.
ZaaK's aim is to provide a high quality sand material from industrial inorganic by-products and wastes as an alternative to natural sand and minimise the depletion of dwindling natural resource of sand and thereby reducing the destruction of precious ecosystems impacted by sand mining. ZaaK has developed multi-awards winning patent-pending technology which can transforms fly ash, a waste from coal-fired power stations, into value- added engineered sand, called Smart Sand. It is a superior alternative to natural sand, crushed stones (also known as m-sand), and lightweight fine aggregates (LWFA), for use in the building and construction industry and a wide spectrum of niche applications.

The key objective of the Smart Sand project was to design and build an “Integrated Pilot Plant (IPP)” to demonstrate and optimise the fly ash to Smart Sand technology, attracting new customers, stakeholders and investors and generate income by exploiting the results of the action, to kick-off and finance our Ph3.

In summary Horizon 2020 gave ZaaK the leverage to demonstrate its Smart Sand technology by establishing a fully integrated pilot plant, develop its technology further to handle different waste streams and build technological and commercial competencies as well as partnerships to exploit the results of the Smart Sand project. By 2025 ZaaK’s plan is to have 3-4 industrial plants set up and running and at least 4 technology licenses sold. Thus ZaaK has set a new standard for engineered sand with the ambition to become a global leader for upcycling industrial waste by-products based in Europe.
During the project period the location of the IPP was first planned in Germany. However, due to political and local pressures around phasing down of coal fired power plants in Germany in 2017/2018 ZaaK hat to look out for a new location and investor for the IPP: In the beginning of 2018 ZaaK was ble to secure the agreement with its business partner from France to build the IPP in South France. However due to inavailability of required infrastructure as well as operational challenges the decision was made in May 2019 to move the IPP back to Berlin. In June 2019 ZaaK secured the rental lease contract for a hall with an area of 1,000 sq.m which would become the birth place of the Smart Sand IPP.

During project following tasks were completed:
During the project period ZaaK succeeded in establishing a fully integrated pilot plant which has capability to handle and treat not only fly ash but also other waste streams.

Smart Sand tests showing compliance to according to DIN EN 122620, DIN EN 13139 and DIN EN 13055 were completed. ZaaK extended its fly ash to Smart Sand know-how to other by-products and wastes such as pond ash, stabilised ash and bauxite residue.

During the project Smart Sand has been produced for initial customer testing.

By completion of the project ZaaK has completed its core manufacturing, product development and engineering team to continue running and driving its exploitation activities post project.

The technical parameters were established for the upscale of the IPP.

Throughout the project ZaaK took part in several events and other conferences to present the project to potential business partners and customers.
In parallel, the company was in contact directly/indirectly with potential customers from the building and construction value chain as well as fossil-fired power plant owners and operators both in Europe, India, USA and Australia. With the IPP being operational ZaaK will supply larger amounts of Smart Sand. This includes customers from the building and construction value chain as well as fossil-fired power plant owners and operators.

A detailed geographical and content related IP strategy was initiated during the project by filing new patent applications. in order to ensure proper exploitation of Smart/ZaaK™Sand.

During the project period ZaaK has established business partnerships with targeted industry actors to establish an industrial Smart Sand plant in Germany as well as industrial plants in France and India. These partnerships will make exploitation of results post-pilot more effective and efficient.
Currently 256 coal-fired power plants are still in operation in EU, producing and landfilling or depositing ashes. Their gradual phasing out across EU will create the need for local employment support and their environmental legacy of coal ash deposition will remain; 150 million tons of pond ash tailings in the UK, 60 million tons in Eastern Europe and over 500 million tons of Stabilised ash in Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. There is a clear need for innovation that can answer to the socio-economic and environmental challenges in regions of operating, recently closed, or about-to-close coal-fired power plants in EU.
Smart Sand project has enabled ZAAK to further develop its technological and commercial value propositions based on new source materials like Pond ash, Stabilized ash and Bauxite residue. The next generation of Smart Sand from these untapped sources will have similar benefits compared to fly ash based such as lightweight, thermal insulation and extended service life while enabling power plants to reduce wastes, disposal costs and environmental impact.
The next generation Smart Sand is aligned to ZAAK’s strategy to upcycle unused fresh and legacy industrial waste, enabling diversification and huge potential to meet the future demand of quality raw materials. These new raw material sources enabled ZAAK to stay ahead in the game with significant upside.