The independently owned Wheelabrator Frackville cogeneration facility provides dependable, environmentally safe disposal of anthracite coal mining waste (culm), while generating clean energy for sale to the local utility. Designed, constructed and operated by Wheelabrator, Wheelabrator Frackville generates 48 MW of electricity, the equivalent of powering 37,000 homes and businesses, as well as its own operations. Additionally, the plant supplies over 60 million pounds of steam to power Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution at Frackville.
Wheelabrator Frackville plays a key role in the community and the local environment through the safe disposal of more than 500,000 tons of culm each year from an average of 12 abandoned strip pits. Since opening in 1988, the facility has reclaimed and restored more than 135 acres of land previously obscured by abandoned coal pits and mining waste.
A Land Reclamation Story: Schuylkill Valley, Central Pennsylvania
One hundred years ago, miners discovered anthracite coal in Schuylkill Valley and began removing the material above and below ground. Although some of the coal mined was suitable as fuel, much of it was not. Thousands of acres of strip pits and tons of unsightly culm piled high were abandoned throughout the region. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s, when combustion technology made it possible to use culm as a fuel, before the land was reclaimed.
This process combines the culm with limestone, and the combination, when combusted, produces an alkaline ash byproduct. The ash is then conveyed to a storage silo where it is conditioned with water and transported to the abandoned strip pits. Next, the ash is placed in the pits in two-foot layers and compacted by bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Four feet of local cover material is then placed over the ash. Once the abandoned strip pit are completely filled and covered, the area is fertilized and seeded with a variety of native grasses and trees. Six-to-nine months later, two-year-old tree seedlings are hand planted.