A Geochemical Analytical Scheme for the Appraisal of Partitioning and Mobility of Major elements in Weathered Dry Disposed Coal Fly Ash
South Africa is endowed with significant deposits of coal which is utilized in electricity generation to meet the nation’s energy demand. A large volume of waste solid residue from the combustion of pulverized feed coal in power stations is dry disposed in stock piles or dumps. Chemical interactions of dry disposed fly ash with ingressed CO2 from the atmosphere and infiltrating rain water would cause dissolution of the soluble components in the fly ash matrix. Chemical partitioning and mobility of major elements in samples from cores drilled into serially stacked weathered dry disposed fly ash were investigated using a modified five steps sequential extraction scheme. A total acid digestion was carried out on the original ash core samples prior to extraction to validate the extraction procedure. The geochemical distribution of the investigated major elements in 59 drilled core samples was determined by x-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The relationship between SiO2 and chemical index of alteration (CIA) showed 8 year and 20-year-old core samples have a moderate to high degree of weathering. Conversely, 1-year-old cores samples showed characteristics between low and moderate-high degrees of weathering. A cluster and discriminant analysis of the major elements was also able to reveal the subtle chemical alteration differences of the core samples. Functional analysis revealed the disparities in the dissolution patterns of major soluble components in the matrix of the drilled core samples. Modified sequential extractions revealed high concentration of the major species in the leachates for every mineralogical fraction; although the bulk of the major elements are locked up in the insoluble phase of the core samples (i.e. residual fraction) which would not be released under normal environmental conditions. It is noteworthy that the concentration of major elements in the labile fractions (water soluble + exchangeable + carbonate) was high and this has implications for the long-term durability of residual mineral phases. Relative enrichment and depletion trends of major elements are promoted by heterogeneity in the ash dump (i.e. moisture content), gradual reduction of pore water pH and continuous brine and water irrigation.
Key words: Coal fly ash; Weathering; Sequential extraction scheme; Cluster analysis; Factor Analysis
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