Born from ashes
Working to reimagine the supply chain of sustainable energy by-products to the construction, manufacturing, and infrastructure sectors, Power Minerals Ltd (PML) employs its rich understanding of producers’ and end users’ requirements to support the efficient delivery of key projects
The present day finds Power Minerals Ltd (PML) in a particularly comfortable position. The UK’s leading independent supplier of power station ash products remains flexible, local, and small enough to serve its customer base, whilst keeping the strength of being part of a much larger organisation, in the shape of German energy giant STEAG. The latter fact allows the company to call upon its parent organisation’s broader expertise and international network when needed, at a time when the industry is looking to address the challenges of developing a robust supply chain.
Founded in 2003 by Nigel Waldron and Peter Brennan in partnership with Hargreaves plc, the company was originally named Hargreaves Coal Combustion Products (HCCP). Since then, it has specialised in offering supplies of coal ash, pulverised fuel ash (PFA), and furnace bottom ash (FBA) to the construction and building products markets.
Nigel, who is also PML’s Managing Director, talks us through some of the key milestones that have led the company to where it stands today. “In 2005, we won a contract with Drax Power Station to manage the sales and marketing activities of its coal-related by-products. During the five years that followed, we succeeded in expanding our source base by trading and providing sales and distribution services across multiple sites in the UK and by 2010, we were supplying ash products from eight of the 18 coal-fired power plants in the country. It was at that time when the company attracted the interest of STEAG (then known as Evonik Power Minerals), who acquired the business and rechristened it Power Minerals.”
Today, Power Minerals has contracts with three of the five big coal ash sources in the UK. Meanwhile, the company is becoming increasingly active in the import of ashes via its international network. Nigel adds: “We supply everyone – from the largest multinational to the smallest independent end users or specialist contractors, and provide materials of all grades to all applications, including high-grade PFA for fly ash in concrete according to the BS EN 450 standard, as well as recovered stockpile PFA for engineering fill to the Specification for Highway Works. It is fascinating to work in our industry, because ash finds a wide variety of applications, such as in autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), lightweight aggregate block manufacture, cement kiln raw material, blended cements, ceramics, and hydraulically- and bitumen-bound pavement layers, to mention but a few.”
Among the principal UK contracts for Power Minerals are the business’ deals with Drax Power Station in Yorkshire, SSE Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station in Widnes, and RWE’s Aberthaw Power Station in South Wales. “Due to the geographical location of the three sites, it is safe to say that we have established a strong national presence,” Nigel points out. “Drax is currently the only producer of BS EN 450-quality PFA in the UK and year-round supply to our key customer base is supported by storage solutions and imports where required. As we all know, the power stations do not generate all-year round, but there are ash deposits from which we have been recovering and supplying more ashes than what has been produced by fresh generation,” he explains.
Climbing to the top of the industry almost inevitably involves proving your willingness to go the extra mile in serving your customers, and there is no better example to illustrate this claim than Power Minerals’ work with Mick George Concrete. “Mick George is a valued customer of ours, who won the contract to supply concrete for the ongoing A14 project. We engaged at an early stage with the company to provide assurances that we could supply the PFA specified for the concrete structures of this project. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to plan solutions and make commitments to delivering to high-profile schemes like this,” Nigel expounds.
At this point in time, Power Minerals remains focused on serving predominantly its UK customers and expanding the availability of high-quality ash products in the company’s domestic market. Nevertheless, the supplier has also identified an opportunity to export its expertise, which does not necessarily involve exporting ash. Nigel elaborates: “Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of ash deposits around the world, and we would like to offer our know-how as they are being developed. Simultaneously, we will be doing our best to make the most of our own materials, so that we can reduce our reliance on imports in the medium- to long-term.”
In 2018, the excellent track record set by Power Minerals caught the eye of Birmingham’s business community as the company was presented with the prestigious ‘Excellence in Industry’ award at the Birmingham Post Business Awards in November. “We are extremely proud of the accolade, because it demonstrates the success of our business model and raises the company’s profile. The application process was really challenging and HSBC – as award sponsors – were fairly demanding in their interrogation, but we are happy to be recognised for our hard work and I am sure that the whole team appreciates the acclaim,” Nigel comments.
He offers his take on the company’s future perspectives against the backdrop of current market conditions: “Over the past few years, the drivers for producers and users of ash products have shifted significantly, mainly due to the reduced generation by coal and a continued demand for ashes from a technical and sustainability point of view. As the technical advantages of using coal ashes are now well-established, the focus is on sourcing the right material for the right cost for the right customer. What’s more, the use of ash as a secondary raw material reduces the need for virgin aggregates and also decreases concrete’s carbon footprint by partially replacing cement.
“One of the areas we are planning to focus on is the improvement of the drying and beneficiation of ashes from our historic stockpiles. We are collaborating with a number of emerging and conventional technology companies who share our vision, and we anticipate being the first to release a certified cementitious PFA produced in the UK, from UK sources, and for the domestic market,” Nigel enthuses.
Finally, reiterating the responsibility Power Minerals holds as a true field leader, Nigel uses the opportunity to invite everyone who is interested in the future development of the ash segment in the construction industry to the EuroCoalAsh 2019 conference at Dundee University. “The event will take place between June 10 and June 12 and we will be providing talks as part of the UK Quality Ash Association (UKQAA).
“We were founding members of the UKQAA and the European Coal Combustion Product Association (ECOBA) and, together with the other members, we span the construction and building materials manufacturing sectors to promote the scientific and technical standards and regulations that govern the production, distribution, and use of the materials we supply. Our people have in-depth experience working in both sectors and operate within an extensive network where synergies and symbiosis between the industries can be realised. We believe that our key specialism lies in understanding the needs of the producers and the end users and our aim is to continue providing a conduit between the two, while responding to the growing demand from the planned infrastructure projects throughout the UK.”
Services: Power station ash products supply