Ashutosh Tiwari and S.K. Shukla (eds.) Advanced Carbon Materials and Technology, (419474) 2014 Scrivener Publishing LLC
Engineering Behavior of Ash Fills
Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Delhi Technological University, Delhi, India
Abstract The coal-based thermal power plants often dispose of surplus fl y ash or coal ash in a nearby low-lying area normally called ash pond. It is exten-sively used as a structural fi ll and as a subgrade for highway embankment. The bearing capacity and settlement of cemented and uncemented ash fi lls are based upon a quality designation related to RQD and penetration tests, respectively. The cemented ash fi ll is characterized by a hardening parameter obtained from the joint parameters of a fractured core. Many of these fi lls in uncemented and uncompacted state show disproportionate settlement due to collapse, piping, erosion and liquefaction. For the use of these fi lls as foundation soil, the ash should be characterized and com-pacted. In the present chapter the characterization, hardening, bearing capacity and settlement are analyzed for the ash fi lls. It is based on rela-tive density and relative compaction for uncemented ash fi lls. The bearing capacity of compacted ash is a function of relative dilatancy. A plot for settlement and foundation size is utilized to obtain the settlement of com-pacted ash. The critical values of penetration resistance of standard cone and split spoon sampler in saturated condition are adjudged vulnerable to excessive settlement as shown by the collapse and liquefaction resistance. It is shown that for classifi ed gradation of ashes above a critical degree of compaction and degree of saturation, the ash fi ll may settle less than the allowable settlements.
Keywords: Ash fi lls, compaction, RQD, load tests, bearing capacity, settlement
*Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
420 Advanced Carbon Materials and Technology
The burning of coal has been a main source of power generation for ages, but the mass production of power by thermoelectric plants has brought a mounting problem of ash disposal in the past few decades. The ash produced by the coal-fi red power plants consists of fl y ash composed of particle sizes normally less than 300 m and bottom ash made up of signifi cantly coarser particles. The mixture of fl y ash and bottom ash is eventually disposed of in a slurry con-tainment facility known as ash pond . The combined quantum of ashes, namely fl y ash, bottom ash and pond ash, are commonly called coal ash in North American countries. According to one esti-mate, the world coal consumption of 7.5 thousand million tons in the year 2011 will be closer to 13 thousand million tons in the year 2030 with proportional generation of coal ash. The principal carbon compositions in a variety of coal types, namely anthracite, bituminous, and lignite coal, vary signifi cantly. Consequently, they have ash content ranging from less than twenty, ten and fi ve per-cent, respectively. On an average, it may require a capacity build-ing to accommodate nearly a hundred to thousand million tons of ash annually. Worldwide, more than 65% of fl y ash produced from coal power stations is disposed of in landfi lls and ash ponds [2, 3]. Therefore, the behavior of ash fi ll has remained a matter of great interest equally among engineers, scientists, planners and develop-ers, contractors, and owners in the past three decades.
11.1.1 Physico-Chemical Characterization
Normally, the composite ash collected from electrostatic precipita-tors and the bottom of the hoppers of thermal power plants may be classifi ed as coal ash. The coarse ash collected from the furnace bot-tom is known as bottom ash. It is around 20 to 25% of the total ash produced. The ash is disposed of in a pond by mixing it with water to form slurry. The slurry usually contains 20% solids by weight. This method of ash disposal is called wet method. There are sev-eral environmental issues associated with ash fi ll . The landfi ll of ash may be used as a construction fi ll if the suitable ashes are properly characterized. The fi ne ashes may collapse upon wetting. To avoid excessive settlement upon wetting, suitability of coal ash should be examined as per the criteria of collapse [8, 9] and lique-faction [10, 11]. The chemical and physical characteristics of the ash
Engineering Behavior of Ash Fills 421
produced depend upon the quality of coal used, the performance of wash-units, effi ciency of the furnace and several other factors. The physical and chemical properties of ash are infl uenced by the type and source of coal, method and degree of coal preparation, cleaning and pulverization, type and operation of power generation unit, ash collection, handling and storage methods, etc. Ash properties may vary due to changes in boiler load. The choice of furnace type such as stoker fi red, cyclone type or pulverized coal furnace is also known to affect the properties of the ash collected.
11.1.2 Engineering Characteristics
Since coal-based power is one of the most reliable means of power generation throughout the world, the continuing practice through-out various countries has been to consider it acceptable to dispose of ash in landfi lls in areas previously considered wastelands or embankments. The recent studies [12, 5, 13] indicate potential vul-nerability of the ash fi lls to failures [8, 14, 15]. However, land recla-mation using coal ash has been viably investigated in various parts of the world. Moreover, it has been a matter of interest among the scientifi c community to explore the utilization of coal ash . During the combustion of coal, minerals are transformed to mull-ite, magnetite, tridymite, glass, etc., thus forming a composite ash. The main chemical components of coal ash are silica, alumina, iron oxide and other alkalis.
The mineral group present in coal, such as hydrated silicate group, carbonate group, sulphate group and their varying compo-sitions play a major role in determining the chemical composition of ash. As per the source of coal used in different thermal plants, the chemical composition  and engineering parameter  of the ashes are different (Tables 11.111.5) compared to natural geo-materials. The design parameters for ash as structural and embank-ment fi ll provided in IRC: SP-58: 2001 are shown in Table 11.3.
The ASTM classifi cations of coal ash are related to the percentage of calcium oxide in ash. The ashes with a high amount of calcium oxide show self-hardening pozzolanic properties in the presence of water. The pozzolanic properties of fl y ash have been documented by Mehta and Monterio . Such ashes are designated as class C ash. A typical class C ash is obtained from the burning of lignite coal. The ashes from bituminous coal that do not possess self-hard-ening properties are called class F ash. The large quantum of ash
422 Advanced Carbon Materials and TechnologyTa
Engineering Behavior of Ash Fills 423Ta
424 Advanced Carbon Materials and TechnologyTa
Engineering Behavior of Ash Fills 425
Table 11.4 Engineering parameters for a few uncemented geomaterials [3, 2527].
Sand Type cu emin emax c Reference
Monterey #0 sand
1.6 0.57 0.86 37.0 
Tieino sand 1.5 0.57 0.93 34.8 
Toyoura sand 1.27 0.61 0.99 35.1 
Ottawa sand (round)
1.48 0.48 0.78 29.0 
Sacramento river sand
1.47 0.61 1.03 33.3 
Hokksund sand 1.91 0.55 0.87 36.0 
Yamuna silty sand
235 0.31 0.78 2530 
Coal ash 210 0.60.8 1.42.10 2730 
Table 11.5 Peak and ultimate angles of friction for a few geomaterials [3, 25, 27, 28].
Material 'peak 'ult Reference
Dense well-graded sand or gravel, angular grains
55 35 
Medium dense uniform sand, round grains
Dense sandy silt with some clay 47 32
Sandy silty clay (glacial) 35 30
Clay-shale, on partings 35 25
Clay (London) 25 15
Yamuna silty sand 46 25 
Coal ash 5053 2730 
426 Advanced Carbon Materials and Technology
produced may be classifi ed as class F. Coal ash is normally used in the construction of ash dykes, reclamation of low-lying land, fab-ricated earth structures such as embankments, road fi lls, etc. The landfi lls intensive utilization of coal ash requires stability analysis of fi ll.
X-ray diffraction study is normally carried out to identify the min-eral phases present in the ash. A typical X-ray diffraction shows that the ash contains traces of aluminum silicate, quartz and some heavy minerals like hematite and magnetite. Identifi cation of defi -nite crystalline mineral can be based on Braggs equation [ = 2 d sin 2] where is wavelength of X-ray specifi c to the Cu target ele-ment [= 1.542] and d is interplanner spacing. Normally the test is conducted between 070 (2), at a rate of 0.8/sec using the CuK characteristic radiation of Cu target element. The interplan-ner spacing of respective peaks on the x-ray pattern are calculated from the corresponding 2 angle. These peaks are associated with the characteristic minerals. In crystalline form, ash contains traces of aluminum silicate, quartz and some heavy minerals .
Figure 11.1 shows an example of a typical X-ray diffraction pat-tern of an ash sample. The peak near 26.40 is characteristic of alu-mina-based silicate minerals. Their respective peaks near 33.2 and 35.4 indicate the presence of a heavy mineral like hematite or mag-netite. A subordinate amount of 11CaO7Al2O3 is evident from peak incidentally close to 18. The concurrence of a strong peak close to 26.5 indicates that quartz is one of the major constituents along with alumina-based silicate mineral. The crystalline silica sand is
010 2 Degree 70
Fe 2 O 3
A16 Si 2 O 13
Figure 11.1 X-ray diffraction pattern of a typical ash sample .
Engineering Behavior of Ash Fills 427
also characterized by this peak. The crystalline silica sand is the main mineral component of granular fi ll hydraulically deposited by rivers worldwide. The potential clay minerals may be present or absent in the ash, indicating that ash may or may not have any structural clay cohesion in its natural state. Any peak associated with the hydrated calcium silicate group that is responsible for the development of cohesion due to chemical reaction (marked by the formation of crystals of hydrated calcium aluminium silicate on cur-ing in the presence of water with time) indicates the self-hardening properties of ash. Therefore, the absence or presence of respective peak is classifi ed as cohesionless or cemented ash mass while eval-uating its behavior as an engineering fi ll. The ash samples contain divergent amounts of amorphous phase. The amorphous phase is in the highest amount in the pond among all ash types. This is because of the presence of unburned coal in bottom ash compo-nent. Comparing the X-ray diffraction pattern of ash samples with sand (cohesionless) it is implicit that sand has peaks with crystal-line quartz, while the ash has peaks of quartz as well as humps of non-crystalline matter. Burning of coal at high temperature and sudden cooling of ash in a short interval produces non-crystalline matter in coal ash. The presence of glassy phase, which is non-crys-talline in nature, is around 60 to 88% of ash by weight . The cohesionless soils of similar gradation as that of ash may be charac-terized as sandy silt to silty sand. The engineering behavior of natu-ral geomaterials is also affected in a similar manner . The cemented ash fi ll may be characterized as weakly cemented rock. These fi lls have dominant presence of crystalline quartz. The pres-ence of amorphous matter along with crystalline quartz induces signifi cant differences in the engineering characteristics of ash fi lls compared to the natural geomaterials .
220.127.116.11 Chemical Composition
The chemical composition of the ashes is obtained from the non-combustible components produced by burning of the coal. The comparison of a typical