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Buck Steam Station recycling to begin in 2019

SPENCER — The Spencer Board of Aldermen has approved an amendment to its interstate business zoning district that would allow construction of a trucking terminal at the intersection of Long Ferry Road and Montclair Drive.

Several questions and concerns were raised when board members learned that the company, SEFA Group, would use the terminal in conjunction with Duke Energy’s coal-ash recycling efforts at Buck Steam Station.

The amendment was passed 4-2 on July 10, but questions remain for many local residents.

The Post reached out to Duke Energy and representatives of SEFA Group for answers.

The Buck Steam Station, located on the Yadkin River, is a former coal-fired electric power plant built in 1926. Its last coal-fired unit was decommissioned in 2013. The plant’s long operation left roughly 6.5 million tons of coal ash in an on-site basin, said Megan Henderson, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy.

“It’s a lot of ash, but it’s an old facility,” she said.

Buck Steam Station is one of three S.T.A.R. facilities that will process and recycle coal ash to be used in concrete. Previous reports have implied that ash will be recycled on site, but the reality is a little more complicated.

According to Henderson, coal ash will be reprocessed on site, turning it from industrial waste into a silica-based material suitable for use in the concrete industry. The process both is and is not recycling, she said — much the same way that putting an aluminum can into a recycling bin is recycling although its journey is not yet over.

“Technically, it’s not recycled until it’s reprocessed into another product,” Henderson said.

On-site reprocessing will turn the ash into a valuable product and sift out other chemicals and trace metals. Construction on the processing unit is expected to take as long as 18 months. The Buck Steam Station unit is expected to begin operation in late 2019.

Each unit will have advanced air quality controls and filters that will “limit emissions to low levels in compliance with federal and state air quality regulations that are protective of human health and the environment.” A dry scrubber will control sulfur dioxide, particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions, Duke says.

The final product will be shipped out of Buck Steam Station to concrete and construction partners throughout the state.

“The actual recycling occurs off site when the product is rendered into other materials,” Henderson said.

A separate service road will be constructed for truck traffic to and from Buck Steam Station. Henderson said the road will run parallel to Dukeville Road. Construction on the road will begin in August and should be complete by December.

“Our plans are to use this road as the primary entrance for all traffic into the site,” she said.

Dukeville Road will not be closed.

Duke has contracted with SEFA Group to transport and market fly ash to concrete and construction companies. Barbara Benton, director of marketing with SEFA, said the company will use pneumatically sealed tanks to deliver the product to retailers.

All deliveries will be completed during the day, and the empty trucks would return to the proposed Long Ferry Road terminal to be parked overnight.

“Drivers are returning those vehicles at the end of every day. But they’re empty,” she said.

No coal ash would be stored or carried onto the property. Instead, the terminal would store trucks, provide servicing and fuel, and serve as a base of operations for human resources, training and logistics.

“So that’s all done there,” Benton said.

The terminal would remain at the Long Ferry Road site until ash reprocessing is complete — a process Henderson said could take quite a while. Buck Steam Station’s reprocessing unit should be able to handle about 400,000 tons of coal ash per year, which will produce roughly 300,000 tons of product.

“We’re really focused on recycling as much as is practical as quickly as possible,” Henderson said.

Recycling coal ash, Henderson said, is the “only way to avoid permanent disposal,” and Duke is happy it’s an option at Buck Steam Station.

“The community advocated for the recycling unit, and we’re pleased that this worked out for them,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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