The closure of the Longannet power station could lead to a sharp rise in the cost of redeveloping brownfield sites because the production of pulverised fuel ash has ended, construction experts have warned.
Pulverised fuel ash (PFA), a by-product from coal-fired power stations, is used in cement, concrete and other building products. It is also a vital component of the grout that is used for stabilising former mine workings across central Scotland before development can take place. With Longannet now closed, the production of Scottish pulverised fuel ash has ceased, so supplies will run out within a few weeks.
The construction industry has already lost the supply of PFA from Cockenzie power station, which closed in 2013. The ash is used in many developments in central Scotland, with Longannet currently being the sole source in Scotland of the huge quantities of the material needed.
Neil Sutherland, regional director for Wardell Armstrong, environmental, engineering and mining consultants, warned: “This will have a huge impact on new development in Scotland and eventually across the UK. When we run out of Scottish pulverised fuel ash, developers will be forced to bring in imports from England or Europe to stabilise old mine workings before development can proceed.”
He added: “The increased transport costs mean that the price of PFA in Scotland is likely to double, significantly increasing the bill for the preparation work for new developments and potentially making many development projects unviable. It also means that publicly funded projects will be in jeopardy as public sector cuts continue to reduce budgets at the same time as development costs rise.”
Neil Amner, a partner in transport and environmental law with MacRoberts, said: “A rise in ground preparation costs could have a huge impact on the construction industry. Developers and landowners will now be looking very closely at their contract terms to see how big an impact these costs will have on their current and future negotiations. The public sector could suffer a double hit due to higher costs on projects yet lower net receipts on land sales.”
He added: “This is now the perfect opportunity for companies to develop alternatives that could be used instead of pulverised fuel ash. I know the universities are looking at new products, but we need to get them ready for use as soon as possible to make sure that much needed developments are not shelved due to the cost of preparing sites.”