Coal byproducts reduce waste and benefit the environment

Beyond generating electricity and heat, the burning of coal yields various byproducts that can be sold to reduce waste and maximize resource utilization. At Basin Electric, the byproducts of coal that are collected at our power plants include fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum. These byproducts are produced at Leland Olds Station, located near Stanton, North Dakota; Antelope Valley Station, in Beulah, North Dakota; and Laramie River Station, in Wheatland, Wyoming. 

In the past, Basin Electric would landfill the ash product; however, since 2007, resources have been devoted to marketing these byproducts. In addition, there has been global research and development of widespread uses for these products, creating demand. 

“Sales of these byproducts provide an environmental, economic, and product benefit by reducing landfill space and cost of disposal, while increasing sales revenue and recycled material use,” said Lori Miller, Basin Electric executive account manager. “In 2023, coal byproducts had a total benefit to Basin Electric of $4.5 million.”

Fly Ash 

Fly ash is a very fine, powdery material composed mostly of silica and is made from the burning of finely ground coal in a boiler. Fly ash has an annual production rate of approximately 580,000 tons. It’s used in cement and as a drying agent to solidify oil drill coverings.

Bottom Ash 

Bottom ash is a course angular ash particle that is too large to be carried up into the facility’s stacks so it forms in the bottom of the coal furnace. Bottom ash has an annual production rate of approximately 525,000 tons. Currently, it’s used in roof granules, blasting, and golf course bunkers. Future use may include retaining walls and highway embankments.


Gypsum is formed when power plants use flue gas desulfurization systems to remove sulfur dioxide from emissions. When the sulfur dioxide is removed, the gypsum byproduct is formed. Gypsum has an annual production rate of approximately 785,000 tons. Currently, it’s used in agriculture to balance pH levels in alkaline soils. Future use may include cement, drywall, and plaster.


Related Videos