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Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects


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The Leaching Characteristics of Trace Elements in Coal Fly Ash and an Ash Disposal System of Thermal Power Plants
R. K. Singh , N. C. Gupta & B. K. Guha
a a a b

University School of Environment Management, GGS Indraprastha University, Dwarka, New Delhi, India
b

Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, India Available online: 24 Feb 2012

To cite this article: R. K. Singh, N. C. Gupta & B. K. Guha (2012): The Leaching Characteristics of Trace Elements in Coal Fly Ash and an Ash Disposal System of Thermal Power Plants, Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects, 34:7, 602-608 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15567036.2011.621928

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Energy Sources, Part A, 34:602608, 2012 Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1556-7036 print/1556-7230 online DOI: 10.1080/15567036.2011.621928

The Leaching Characteristics of Trace Elements in Coal Fly Ash and an Ash Disposal System of Thermal Power Plants
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R. K. SINGH,1 N. C. GUPTA,1 and B. K. GUHA2


1

University School of Environment Management, GGS Indraprastha University, Dwarka, New Delhi, India 2 Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, India
Abstract The present investigation was conducted to study the leaching characteristics of trace elements in coal y ash and the ash disposal system of thermal power plants. The batch experiment for the y ash collected from the hopper of the electrostatic precipitator of the thermal power plant, Delhi, was carried out to study the leaching characteristics of Fe, Cr, Cu, Pb, Cd, and Ni. Four leaching time intervals were selected, ranging from 1 week to 4 weeks. From the experiments, leaching behavior of trace elements was investigated and it was observed that Cr and Ni have a relatively higher leachability in extraction solution than aqueous and buffer solution. Furthermore, with the leaching time, the leachability of Cu is increased in aqueous and extraction solution. The leachability of Cd increased with leaching time in aqueous and buffer solution. With the increase of leaching time, the leachability of Fe in extraction uid increased with time with small uctuation. Keywords elements y ash, leaching, shake extraction test, thermal power plants, trace

1. Introduction
A large quantity of y ash is produced because of the use of coal in power generation. The y ash disposal results in signicant environmental problems, e.g., leaching of heavy metals from the y ash. The leaching of y ash during disposal is of concern for possible contamination, especially for the aquatic environment when it comes in contact with water. Combustion may concentrate elements like Fe, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Cd, which are likely to be leached from a solid phase. The surface of a y ash particle is only microns in thickness and can contain leachable heavy metals, which can be condensed on the surface of particles. Many heavy metals become water soluble under acidic conditions and can move downward with water through the soil, and in some cases move to aquifers, surface streams, or lakes. India uses coal as a major fuel for power generation and about 59.2% of electricity production is mainly from coal-based thermal power generation. Indian coal has high ash content (3545%) and a lower heating value (Mathur et al., 2003). It is predicted that by the year 2012, y ash production in India may increase to 170 million tonnes
Address correspondence to R. K. Singh, University School of Environment Management, GGS Indraprastha University, Sector-16C, Dwarka, New Delhi 110075, India. E-mail: rksingh_ em@yahoo.com

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per annum (Rajamane, 2003). Worldwide, China is currently the largest producer of y ash followed by Russia and the USA (Batra and Vidya, 2006). Delhi alone contributed nearly 5,600 tonnes of y ash every day from its three thermal power plants (Singh, 1997). The usual methods of y ash disposal currently conducted are (i) dumping in a disposal area, (ii) placement and compaction in a controlled llk, and (iii) slurring with water followed by pumping into a lagoon or impoundment. The Rajghat thermal power house was commissioned in 1967 and had a 135 megawatt (MW) capacity using a coalred generation system. The plant consists of two 67.5 MW units and uses approximately 2,000 tonnes of coal per day. It is equipped with one stack of 160 m height, producing about 225 kilo-tonnes of y ash annually. Both units of the plant are installed with an electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) collection with an average efciency of 99.7% (Mehra et al., 1998). In India, at present, the major portion of y ash produced goes for disposal in ash ponds and landlls and only a small fraction of it is utilized (Bhattacharjee and Kandpal, 2002). The utilization rate (13%) is far below the global utilization rate (25%) (Iyer and Scott, 2001). Presently, some parts of y ashes are collected by cement manufacturing plants, brick manufacturing units, and left over and then dumped in surrounding ash ponds (personal communication with Mr. Sushil Kumar, Senior Manager, Rajghat Power Station, Delhi). These y ashes are not processed in any way prior to dumping in the impoundments. Due to the huge amount of production of toxic elements, the disposal or storage of y ash from coal power plants can pose signicant environmental threats (Herck et al., 2000). The contamination of river water and its sediments by many toxic elements due to discharge of thermal power ash pond efuent have been reported (Sperenke et al., 2000). The toxic elements scavenged in y ash may leach out when environmental conditions are changed as a result of weather or other anthropogenic activities (Balzamo and Marchetti, 1996; Zevenbergen et al., 1999). Leaching of toxic elements and compounds from y ash can be contaminated in the soil and water. Trace elements attached on the surface of ash particles are readily leached (Shi and Sengupta, 1995; Fytianos et al., 1998) and tend to be contaminated soil (Theis and Richter, 1979), groundwater (Theis and Gardner, 1990), and surface water (Mills et al., 1999). Geochemical studies carried out by Mandal and Sengupta (2005) indicated that the ashes of Kolaghat contain sufcient amounts of the trace elements As, Cu, Pb, Ni, Zn, Co, V, Sc, Be, Cs, and Zr relative to the feed coal. These elements show signicant enrichment in the pond ash relative to their crustal abundance. Leaching tests have been commonly used to predict environmental impact associated with ash disposal (Praharaj et al., 2002). A shake test gives information on the total quantity of an element leachable from ash residue. Due to leaching characteristics of y ash, the trace elements, along with other constituents, gradually and slowly get leached from the ash and percolate to nearby ground water.

2. Methodology
A 10-kg sample of y ash was collected from the rst hopper of Rajghat Thermal Power Station located in Delhi, from where a major portion of y ash is transported and disposed off as wet slurry in nearby ash ponds. Two ground water samples were also collected from the nearby area of ash pond of the thermal plant for the analysis of Fe, Cu, Cr, Ni, Pb, and Cd. ASTM D 3987-06 (American Society for Testing and Materials, 1995), Standard test method for shake extraction of solid waste with water were chosen for the study in which

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Figure 1. Extraction apparatus.

a sample was placed in a given volume of leachant solution and was allowed to agitate for a xed period of time. At the end of the leaching period, the liquid was removed, ltered, and analyzed for the selected elements. The shake experiments were performed using a specially fabricated extraction apparatus (Figure 1) as per the specications of ASTM. In the present test, a liquid to solid ratio of 1:20 was maintained using 12.5 gm of y ash in 250 ml of extraction solution. The shaking was done over varying period of time at 100 rpm. To achieve the aims of the current study, three extraction solutions were selected: extraction uid (pH 4:93 0:05), aqueous solution (pH 7), and buffer solution (pH 1011). Each medium was tested using a glass bottle with a capacity of 500 ml. After shaking for the pre-determined period for 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks, the samples were allowed to settle for 5 min, and then were ltered through a 0.45- m lter paper. For the analysis of trace metals, the ltrate was acidied (pH <2) with HNO3 and preserved at 4 C to prevent any additional reaction. The elements were analyzed by using atomic absorption spectrophotometer (Model Analyst 700; Perkin Elmers) following the standard methods (APHA, 1995). The heavy metals (e.g., iron, copper, lead, cadmium, chromium, and nickel) concentration was determined.

3. Results and Discussion


During the study, leaching of trace elements, namely Fe, Cu, Cr, Pb, Ni, and Cd, from y ash were determined. Leachates from three extraction solutions were analyzed for trace elements and presented graphically in Figures 24. The analysis report of ground water samples are presented graphically in Figure 5. The leaching characteristic of y ash was carried out in three different extraction solutions for varying periods of time. It has been reported that the composition of trace elements in y ash even from a single coal-red power plant may vary even on daily measurements (Egemen and Yurteri, 1996). The effect of pH and extraction time on the leachability has indicated that the leaching behavior of trace elements from y ash is affected by the pH of extraction solution and leaching time. It was observed that when the y ash was shaken with aqueous solution (pH 7) and extraction uid (pH 4.93 0.05), the pH of the leachant initially increases, followed by a progressive decrease.

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Figure 2. Concentration of different elements leached in aqueous solution over 4 weeks. (color gure available online)

Figure 3. Concentration of different elements leached in buffer solution over 4 weeks. (color gure available online)

Figure 4. Concentration of different elements leached in extraction solution over 4 weeks. (color gure available online)

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Figure 5. Concentration of trace elements in groundwater sample near Rajghat Power Station. (color gure available online)

The concentration of iron varies from 0.485 to 0.593 mg/L in extraction solution, 0.225 to 0.778 mg/L in buffer solution, and 0.190 to 0.215 mg/L in aqueous solution. The concentration of copper varies from 0.130 to 0.145 mg/L in extraction uid, 0.068 to 0.078 mg/L in buffer solution, and 0.040 to 0.064 mg/L in aqueous solution. The concentration of chromium varies from 0.569 to 0.706 mg/L in extraction uid, 0.411 to 0.545 mg/L in buffer solution, and 0.334 to 0.400 mg/L in aqueous solution. The concentration of lead varies from beyond detectable level (BDL) to 0.034 mg/L in extraction uid, BDL to 0.021 mg/L in buffer solution, and BDL to 0.035 mg/L in aqueous solution. The concentration of nickel varies from 0.515 to 0.618 mg/L in extraction uid, 0.334 to 0.383 mg/L in buffer solution, and 0.279 to 0.329 mg/L in aqueous solution. The concentration of cadmium varies from 0.019 to 0.109 mg/L in extraction uid, 0.027 to 0.160 mg/L in buffer solution, and 0.035 to 0.108 mg/L in aqueous solution. The observed concentrations in the leachates for many elements indicating that a long residence time of ash pore water in the eld conditions at the ash pond site is likely to result in elevated concentrations of these elements within the interstitial groundwater in the nearby area. At low pH, metals are released from the surface of the y ash into leachate. The time factor also inuenced the pH and the concentration of different elements leached into the solution, since different phases are dissolved at different rates. All six elements show their presence in the ground water sample collected from the nearby area of ash pond sites of Rajghat Power Station. Out of the six elements, chromium, cadmium, nickel, and lead has crossed the prescribed standard limit of drinking water in the ground water samples (IS 10500). The elements in drinking water may cause lung tumors, damage of nervous systems, blood disorders, hypertension, and may also affect the kidneys and liver.

4. Conclusions
Coal y ash is disposed of in ash pond with environmental risk. The results of the batch shake test, especially with pre-leached y ash, had shown that the release of elements into extraction medium continues over a period of time. The pH value of leachates obtained

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during the leaching process appears to be related to the alkalinity of the fresh y ashes. The release of heavy metals from the y ash into all extraction mediums is strongly dependent on the pH of y ash and its development during interaction with the leaching solution used. Moreover, an irregular pattern of these six heavy metals released had been obtained in leachates. The leaching of these metals exhibits their presence in the y ash sample from the thermal power plant. At present, ash pond lining is not being followed in practice. Therefore, the possibility of leaching of heavy metals has increased considerably. Since the soil below the impoundments is always saturated and under considerable hydraulic head, the inefciently lined ponds provide a great opportunity for groundwater contamination to seep in. Therefore, the seepage from ash pond may be more as compared to leaching from landlls and ash mounds. The surface water contamination may also take place due to surface runoff from ash ponds.

Acknowledgments
The authors are thankful to Prof. J. K. Garg Dean, University School of Environment Management, GGS Indraprastha University for his support and constant encouragement during the progress of the present work. The authors are also thankful to Sushil Kumar, Senior Manager, Rajghat Power Station for his support during the sampling and investigation period.

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