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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Startup Exploring Multibillion-Dollar Opportunity for Coal Ash

Coal ash is the United States’ second-largest waste stream, after household garbage. It needs to be stored safely to prevent arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins from leaching into farmlands, rivers, lakes, and other public water sources. Coal-fired power plants in the United States generate 140 million tons of coal ash each year – leaving an estimated 3.5 billion tons which now must be managed. Now a startup from Charlotte, North Carolina thinks it might have a profitable solution to this toxic problem.

Coal ash is the United States’ second-largest waste stream, after household garbage. It needs to be stored safely to prevent arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins from leaching into farmlands, rivers, lakes, and other public water sources. Coal-fired power plants in the United States generate 140 million tons of coal ash each year – leaving an estimated 3.5 billion tons which now must be managed. Now a startup from Charlotte, North Carolina thinks it might have a profitable solution to this toxic problem.

EosMYCO Inc., in partnership with global nuclear and environmental services firm AREVA Federal Services, LLC, is engineering a way to extract and re-purpose selected minerals for manufacturing and construction materials. They are working on a pilot-scale project to use off-the-shelf technologies to create a mobile treatment facility that will strip mine the ash, extract useful minerals such as alumina, titanium, and rare earth metals, and vitrify (or convert into a glass-like substance) what is left.

Ryan Rutledge founded eosMYCO based on his Master’s degree research in mycologically sourced bioremediation technologies. He won several local entrepreneurship awards in 2013 and 2014, and it is no wonder why — some estimates put coal ash remediation at a $50-70 billion opportunity, with a proven technology.

EosMYCO says its mobile extraction and treatment processes will take a fraction of the time to complete when compared to alternative coal ash management strategies, and will completely remove the need for secondary lined landfills, or capping in place. The work will generate revenue for investors while asking utilities only for electricity and will be done onsite, virtually eliminating transportation costs and liability. Most importantly, the process permanently transforms the material into an environmentally inert material.

Many utilities are facing pressure to close coal ash ponds to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Coal Ash Management Act that was passed in December 2014, and public concern has grown due to contamination incidents. For example, Duke Energy received about $100 million in fines earlier this year after allowing coal ash to contaminate the Dan River in North Carolina.

North Carolina generates 5.5 million tons of coal ash annually, and eosMYCO claims the state has nearly 140 million tons under management, which its technology could cleanly convert into an inert, aggregate product in less than a decade. Solutions such as these would save the industry billions and eliminate utilities’ liability related to contamination risk. The company expects to deploy the proprietary process in 2016 and is negotiating for investment funds to scale to meet the coal ash needs of the whole state.

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