Project Costs Matter
When it comes to legacy CCR disposition (see Part 1), project costs need to be considered. The method deemed “most feasible” should not only reflect the science behind the decision, but also how project costs become a factor in the decision process. Whether a utility is regulated or not, costs passed on to ratepayers in regulated markets, or customers in unregulated markets, affect the process.
No one intentionally wants to spend more than they must, so utilities that have legacy CCR, environmentalists, legislators and energy end users do share common goals for incurring reasonable expenses for the solution, which often results in taking a hybrid approach to protect ratepayers or customers from unnecessary costs by maximizing economies.
Common Costs Associated with CCR Disposition
Although no two coal ash ponds are the same, any clean closure project has common per-unit costs:
- CCR dewatering and treatment
- CCR excavation
- Preparation for transport
- Site upgrades, restoration
- Ongoing maintenance
On-site handling, site restoration, loadout and project management have similar characteristics and minor differences in costs, but would be consistent in all project scenarios.
The Deciding Costs in Choosing a Disposition Method
- Transportation (on-site or off-site)
- Final use (costs associated with beneficial use) or disposal
The factor with greatest impact on the overall cost of any method chosen is transportation. And transportation costs are always based on distance per unit, no matter what mode of transport is chosen – truck, barge or rail.
If final use involves beneficial use (recycling) or disposal, and the coal ash must be transported off-site to accomplish that, the distance the coal ash must travel determines what the additional cost of those solutions will be.
The table below is a comparative example of estimated project costs on a sliding scale for the three methods: