Ashes from fluidized bed combustion of residual forest biomass: recycling to soil as a viable management option


Although bottom ash (BA) [or mixtures of bottom and fly ash (FA)] from clean biomass fuels is currently used as liming agent, additive for compost, and fertilizer on agricultural and forest soils in certain European countries, in several other countries most of the ashes are currently disposed in landfills. This is due to both a lack of a proper classification of the materials and of regulatory barriers.

Chemical characterization including analysis of an array of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) proved that over 100,000 tons of BA currently landfilled every year in Portugal actually complied with legal limits for PTEs for soil fertilizers applied in other countries. Pot experiments were conducted, testing three dosages of BA and FA (1, 2.5, and 5%, in weight) in three mining soils with different properties. Additions of ash materials to soils led to an increase in the pore water pH relative to control pots (0% of ash added) and had a clear impact on DOC and on the solubilization of both macro- and micronutrients (notably Cu).

The results from the case study using BA and FA from a Portuguese biomass thermal power plant demonstrate that it is imperative to further develop a regulatory framework to alleviate technological and environmental barriers for biomass ash utilization as raw material for fertilizers and/or soil liming agent, in accordance with the goals of the circular economy. A more harmonized view on how to assess the merits and risks of the re-use of these materials is also needed.

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This work was supported by European Funds through “Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade—COMPETE” and by National Funds through the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) within project PEst-C/MAR/LA0017/2013. S.M.R. acknowledges the financial support from FCT (Project IF/01637/2013). The authors also acknowledge the financial support of both FCT and COMPETE through Project no. FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-02800 (FCT PTDC/AGR-PRO/4091/2012) and of the European Commission through Project LIFE14 ENV/PT/000369.

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Correspondence to Sónia M. Rodrigues.

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Cruz, N.C., Rodrigues, S.M., Carvalho, L. et al. Ashes from fluidized bed combustion of residual forest biomass: recycling to soil as a viable management option. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 14770–14781 (2017).

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  • Portugal
  • Bottom ash
  • Fly ash
  • Recycling
  • Soil amendment