, also known as "pulverised fuel ash" in the United Kingdom, is one of the coal combustion products, composed of the fine particles that are driven out of the boiler with the flue gases. Ash that falls in the bottom of the boiler is called bottom ash. In modern coal-fired power plants, fly ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys. Together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the boiler, it is known as coal ash
. Depending upon the source and makeup of the coal being burned, the components of fly ash vary considerably, but all fly ash includes substantial amounts of silicon dioxide (SiO2
) (both amorphous and crystalline), aluminium oxide (Al2
) and calcium oxide (CaO), the main mineral compounds in coal-bearing rock strata.
Constituents depend upon the specific coal bed makeup but may include one or more of the following elements or substances found in trace concentrations (up to hundreds ppm): arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with very small concentrations of dioxins and PAH compounds.
In the past, fly ash was generally released into the atmosphere, but air pollution control standards now require that it be captured prior to release by fitting pollution control equipment. In the US, fly ash is generally stored at coal power plants or placed in landfills. About 43% is recycled, often used as a pozzolan to produce hydraulic cement or hydraulic plaster and a replacement or partial replacement for Portland cement
in concrete production. Pozzolans ensure the setting of concrete and plaster and provide concrete with more protection from wet conditions and chemical attack.
After a long regulatory process, the EPA published a final ruling in December 2014, which establishes that coal fly ash is regulated on the federal level as "non-hazardous" waste according to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
. Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR's) are listed in the subtitle D (rather than under subtitle C dealing for hazardous waste, which was also considered).
In the case that fly or bottom ash is not produced from coal, for example when solid waste
is used to produce electricity in an incinerator (see waste-to-energy facilities
), this kind of ash may contain higher levels of contaminants than coal
ash. In that case the ash produced is often classified as hazardous waste