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Interview with Nicolai Bech, Founder of Standard Consult and Ashtrans Europe

Nicolai Bech talks to Ashtrans about how the shift towards low-carbon sources is impacting ash production, reasons to remain positive about the future of the industry and opportunities for ash beyond Europe.

Ashtrans Europe (AE): Please can you tell us about your career to date and what led you to set up Ashtrans?

Nicolai Bech (NB): Educated at an MSc level in chemical engineering and further PhD in coal combustion I pursued a career in various aspects of engineering until 30 years ago when I entered the power industry. I have been fully engaged in all aspects of ash, gypsum and other secondary materials from power industry for 20 years.

In 2012 I noticed things were about to change dramatically in the By-products industry due to an overall change in power production. I concluded that there was a need for a commercial platform where issues related to By-products trading and transportation could be the real key issues, and also act as the best meeting place for all kinds of traders in the industry. Ashtrans was my way of putting things together.

AE: How is ash used, and what is the fastest growing market for ash use?

NB: Ash is used as a supplementary material in concrete and as raw material for cement production, as well as filler in asphalt pavings. I do not think we can talk about a growing market for fly ash if we consider Western Europe. The market is already mature, but to some extent undersupplied. However if you consider other parts of the world there is a massive potential for the use of fly ash to take advantage of all the savings and improvements fly ash can offer. Introducing fly ash in new markets is the same as introducing the understanding of standards for the use of such materials. This is one the services my company StandardConsult can provide.

What impact is the shift towards low-carbon sources having on ash production? Are there reasons to remain positive about the future of the industry?

NB: Your question nails it precisely. The impact is lower production offered to a mature marked causing temporary shortages. The whole question of transportation now becomes vital because there are still places in the vicinity of Western Europe where fly ash is available in huge quantities. But the whole logistic chain for transporting the product is the key issue.  This will be one of the main topics of discussion at Ashtrans. I have a range of ideas that I would like to test in the market place.

With the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in Europe, are there more opportunities in markets further afield, such as China, India and the US?

NB: The USA are more or less facing the same situation as Western Europe. Again transportation is a key issue. For other regions of the world there is a need to develop further contacts to fully understand the status in such areas. Implementation of standards is a preliminary starting point to introduce e.g. fly ash to the market but it should be closely followed by development of logistic solutions otherwise it makes no sense. You cannot have the one without the other.

What can delegates expect from Ashtrans Europe in 2017?

NB: I usually put a little more emphasis on one particular subject each year. This year I have chosen to focus more on alternative products. Being in Spain is a fantastic opportunity to learn much more about the market approach for alternative ashes like lignite fly ash. It could suddenly hit the stage and therefore I think we should hear more about it. But also other approaches to alternative materials will be discussed in the presentations. Those who have followed Ashtrans for some years will know that facilitating relationships is important, and along with Coaltrans we will do our best to make that happen again.

You can hear more from Nicolai at Ashtrans Europe in Barcelona on 26 – 27 October.


This content is provided by Coaltrans Conferences for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.

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