Duke Energy begins removing coal ash from shut Riverbend plant in North Carolina

The first truck of excavated coal ash left the retired Riverbend power plant near Charlotte, N.C., on May 21, marking the beginning of the end for ash storage at that site as Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) relocates ash to a fully-lined landfill.

“We share our customers’ urgency for closing ash basins, and we’re glad to get this important work under way. We started moving ash just a few days after receiving the necessary permits,” said John Elnitsky, Duke Energy’s senior vice president for ash strategy, in a May 21 statement. “We’re managing this project in a way that meets the highest standards for safety.”

Riverbend excavation will start with 10 truckloads a day to pilot the process and minimize impacts on neighbors. Ash will be sent to a fully-lined landfill in Homer, Ga., and will be transported moist, in covered and washed trucks, to control dust. This landfill is an interim step as Duke works with an outside company to permit two fully-lined structural fill projects proposed for North Carolina’s Chatham and Lee counties.

The Riverbend work initiates the first phase of excavation that the company announced in November 2014. The project will remove about 1 million tons of ash from the ash stack, a dry storage area on the property. Additional permitting and preparations are needed before water can be removed from the primary or secondary ash basins. The Riverbend site has about 4.5 million tons of ash. The Riverbend plant, located in Mount Holly, N.C., began serving customers in 1929 and was retired in 2013. It was one of four plants identified in the North Carolina Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 to be excavated by August 2019, with material relocated to a fully-lined facility.

Riverbend is the second site in the Carolinas to begin ash relocation in recent weeks, following closely on the work begun May 14 at the W.S. Lee plant in South Carolina.

The company also continues to move ash from the Asheville Plant to a nearby, fully-lined structural fill project at the Asheville Regional Airport, which has been ongoing for several years.

In addition to ash excavation, decommissioning of the retired coal plant at the Riverbend site continues. Next decommissioning steps include removing remaining soil under the former coal pile, and demolishing buildings and equipment no longer needed.

Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States with approximately $121 billion in total assets. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.3 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.