New life for a by-product

Historically, ochre, a mine water residue, was sent to landfill as a waste. Through working with partners and following an extensive research and development programme, we established it could be used as a beneficial material and have identified a number of uses for it – including contaminated land remediation and most notably, within the anaerobic digestion industry, where it could be used to capture hydrogen sulphide, which reduces the risk of odour from the process and reduces maintenance to the plants.

Working in collaboration with AB Agri, we found that our iron rich ochre has the ability to replace man-made products imported from Europe – helping to cut the carbon emissions associated with producing and transporting the product to the UK.  This natural product also delivers performance improvements of more than 30% when compared to conventional iron products.

Re-using our ochre by-product

This innovative discovery means that materials from our mine water treatment schemes can be repurposed as an additive in the anaerobic digestion industry, and contribute towards the reduction of imports of similar products from Europe and beyond.

Since this discovery, we have continued to work with AB Agri to further develop our abilities to supply ochre in to the Anaerobic Digestion industry, with the Coal Authority producing ochre and turning it in to a saleable product and AB Agri using their experience and knowledge to sell ochre to an ever-growing market.

The size of the current market demand for iron products in the anaerobic digestion industry is estimated to be around 9,000 tonnes annually, growing further each year. This presents us with a long term and sustainable opportunity for reusing our ochre by-product, avoiding the need to dispose of it as a waste material.

This great example of collaborative working means our ochre is replacing carbon intensive products previously imported from Europe and is saved from landfill. Alongside environmental benefits, this approach raises income and reduces costs and so helps us to create value and minimise cost to the taxpayer.

What next…?

To continue building on this success, we are now working towards aligning our operational de-ochre cycle across our mine water treatment schemes, to provide an opportunity to grow our presence in the anaerobic digestion industry and contribute further to the reuse of our ochre.

This will include evaluating our mine water treatment sites to understand which present the best opportunities to act as national hubs for production of and distributing our by-product, ensuring carbon emissions from transportation of products to customers are kept to a minimum.

If you would like to know more about ochre and its uses, please contact us