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Q&A with Nicolai Bech, Founder of Standard Consult and Ashtrans Europe

Nicolai Bech discusses the state of ash trade in Europe, which markets are growing fastest for ash use and the opportunity for European power stations to sell their ash.

You can hear more from Nicolai at Ashtrans Europe 2018.

Coaltrans Conferences (CC): Please can you tell us a bit about your career and the reasons behind setting up Ashtrans?

Nicolai Bech (NB): I have been working in the power industry for more than thirty years. Four years was concentrated on fuels and fuel qualities with a focus on coal. For the past twenty years I have held various positions at a power company and all of them related to the marketing of high quality coal combustion products.

 Among other positions I served for four years as President for ECOBA (European Coal Combustion Products Association) where I’m still engaged as member of the board. For the past five years I have also served as Chairman of the VGB European Working Group for the utilization of biomass ash.

In 2012 I realised that the future would see an ever-increasing trans-border trade of quality coal combustion products. Despite many technical and scientific conferences on aspects of coal fly ash, there was no platform to discuss the commercial and logistical aspects of its trade. That is how the Ashtrans Conference came about. We held the first conference in 2013 and it is now the place to meet for producers, users, traders and not least the shipping industry.

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

NB: The most important product is high quality hard coal fly ash, which for many years has proved to benefit largely the concrete industry. Almost all large constructions like buildings, bridges and tunnels are built using concrete. Fly ash is also a very important raw material for the cement and asphalt industries.

The North West European countries have a fully developed market for the use of various by-products, mostly hard coal fly ash. However the same situation does not apply for Middle and South East Europe. But since we are all Europeans we should do our best to let other countries benefit from the massive experience we have In expanding the utilization of all by-products.
 As the situation has turned out now we see the need to identify smart shipping/logistic solution to move ash products from South East to North West as well as between the continents. We also need to embrace new products that we may have disregarded in the past. So, for sure South East Europe is the fastest growing market.

CC: How would you describe the current state of the industry? Is there scope for optimism?

NB: Always optimistic, but at the same time intelligent, innovative and creative in the best understanding of all three words. As always, the industry is under pressure, therefore the solutions are to provide good examples and fresh ideas and give people the chance to meet and learn from the best - that is really what AshTrans is all about.

CC: 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: Oh yes! This is a key factor in the raison d’etre for AshTrans to identify and exploit the many opportunities in moving products from producers to markets where the products are asked for. That is also to state that these by-products have turned into international traded commodities. In the same scope it also requires that potential suppliers learn more about the requirements of standards, environment etc. that is applied in the European building material industry.

CC: What are the key themes of this year's event?

NB: The shortage situation has been building up for quite some time. An increased focus on CO2 reduction and a fear of nuclear power has meant that many countries have become much more orientated towards renewable energy e.g. wind and solar not to mention energy savings. Although some countries have kept a focus on nuclear and coal, others have reduced their coal use. In countries with decreased coal use they now have less immediate access to high quality hard coal fly ash. The demand for fly ash has remained stable and in some areas it has even increased due to economic development and building activity.

There is a need now to make efficient the whole logistics supply chain so that high quality hard coal fly ash can be directed from regions of Europe with a surplus towards regions of high demand. So obviously we will focus this year on the crucial important logistic solutions and also delve into the finer details that create obstacles for smooth shipping. Also not to forget present new products and better utilisation of well-known products.

CC: Why is Barcelona chosen again for AshTrans?

NB: The popularity of previous successful Ashtrans conferences has proven that we can offer a unique platform for high quality industry discussion and presentations. The country report session provides an excellent understanding of the situation of countries where development is well under way. It is the only place where industry players can meet in one place over one and a half days to make deals happen, cutting out the hassle and cost of visiting clients individually. I have a personal mission to make the conference rewarding for everyone that participates.

CC: What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming Ashtrans Europe 2018?

NB: The responses that delegates have heard something that made them think again about the many possibilities that the markets, the products, the shipping solutions may provide for an even better performing industry.

Hear more from Nicolai and join us at Ashtrans Europe 2018.

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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