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DOE invests $17.4M in projects to advance recovery of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts

17 August 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected four projects to move on to a second phase of research in their efforts to advance recovery of rare earth elements (REE) from coal and coal byproducts. (Earlier post.) DOE will invest $17.4 million to develop and test REE recovery systems originally selected and designed under phase 1 of a prior funding opportunity announcement through DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE).

REEs are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust that are essential components of many technologies, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. The demand for REEs has grown significantly over recent years, stimulating an emphasis on developing economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery. These four selected research projects will further the goals of FE’s Rare Earth Elements Program by focusing on the development and validation of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of REEs.

The projects, expected to be completed by 2020, fall under two areas of interest: (1) bench-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproducts, including aqueous effluents; and (2) pilot-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproduct solids.

The following two bench-scale projects were selected under area of interest 1:

  • The University of North Dakota Institute for Energy Studies will use North Dakota sub-bituminous lignite coal and coal-related material as feedstock to test their REE recovery system. In addition to producing REEs, the team plans to recover other material from the lignite feedstock to produce one or more value-added products. $2.75 million

  • West Virginia University Research Corporation will use acid mine drainage solids as a feedstock for recovery of REEs and other useful materials. The solids are from Northern Appalachian and Central Appalachian bituminous coal seams in West Virginia. $2.66 million

Two pilot scale-projects were selected under area of interest 2:

  • Physical Sciences, Inc. will use coal fly ash physically processed near Trapp, KY. as their feedstock. The fly ash is a byproduct of combusting Central Appalachian bituminous coal in a power plant boiler. The select portion will be shipped to a Pennsylvania location for subsequent processing to produce the final rare earth product. In addition, researchers will evaluate recovery of other useful materials from the fly ash. $6 million

  • The University of Kentucky Research Foundation will use two sources of coal preparation (coal washing) byproducts as feedstock for recovery of REEs. The team will also recover dry, fine coal from the feedstock material. The first location for installation and testing of the pilot plant will be at a coal preparation plant in Perry County, KY that processes Central Appalachian bituminous coal. The second location for testing of the pilot plant will be at a coal preparation plant that processes Illinois Basin bituminous coal near Nebo, KY. $6 million

August 17, 2017 in Coal, Materials, Motors | Permalink | Comments (12)


Part of IGCC is processing coal, they could extract lots of valuable materials during the gasification process. We would not have to export our coal like a third world country. We would have cleaner air, more transportation fuels without more oil and better energy security.

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle without Carbon Capture does little for clean air and nothing for the U.S. climate policy.
With CC is a fantasy so this sounds like a 17$M waste of public funds to well heeled business that can certainly afford their own research.

And none of that matters.  We've got literally billions of tons of coal waste sitting around.  Making it PROFiTABLE to process acid mine drainage and coal-ash dumps?  That's huge.  Huge.


If you make electricity and fuels you can clean the air without sequestration. However there are so many empty oil and gas wells we can sequester and use the carbon later.

I see Trumps fingerprints all over this

Points taken. Cleaning up and reusing wastes is a worthwhile objective but if the downside includes continued extraction and burning leading to high conversion of buried ancient CO2 deposits as represented by today's reality - sorry SJC -as opposed to unsupported claims then it amounts to the public footing the cost for it's own execution.
CCS is not supported as viable for more than a small part of a percent of fossil fuel derived emissions.
Aside the use of CO2 fare gas injection with the sole objective of making the oil and gas wells more productive, no one is has a 'business model for CCS.

If the legacy stockpiles mentioned are really such a rich resource then reclamation costs should be covered.
If they form hazardous waste concerns then the costs should fall to those who made the profit.
There are undisputed? claims that certain power station residues depending on the origin of the coal supply. contain more radioactive energy than that obtained from initial combustion.

According to Union of concerned scientists.
Mercury: Coal plants are responsible for more than half of the U.S. human-caused emissions of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that causes brain damage and heart problems. Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. A typical uncontrolled coal plants emits approximately 170 pounds of mercury each year. Activated carbon injection technology can reduce mercury emissions by up to 90 percent when combined with baghouses. ACI technology is currently found on just 8 percent of the U.S. coal fleet.

Other harmful pollutants emitted annually from a typical, uncontrolled coal plant include approximately:

114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium. Baghouses can reduce heavy metal emissions by up to 90 percent3.
720 tons of carbon monoxide, which causes headaches and places additional stress on people with heart disease.
220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.

A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including selective catalytic reduction technology, emits 3,300 tons of NOx per year.

It is not too much of a stretch to imagine useful minerals exist in valuable quantity at both these proposed sites but the majority may ( Likely IMO) have escaped up the chimney.

If it supports the unconscionable business of moving the 'evolved natural balance' of CO2 and the asociated components from underground secure store to atmospheric climate endangerment then it qualifies as a political failure for humanity and nature in support of those who profit without requiring either intelligence or conscience.

Data shows IGCC to be cleaner than standard coal power generation even without sequestration. If you want to go toe to toe on the facts I will win.

You win - I am not arguing that.

Understand that people will interpret these conversations from their chosen perspective.
I am arguing that coal should be left in the ground as a necessary objective while understanding that won't happen o'nite.
You will have a harder time arguing the points or concerns that I referred.
Two points I made my comments primarily to the topic of the article which nowhere mentions IGCC.
The point I made vis IGCC not doing much for air quality should be read as CO2 emissions which are the same pound for pound of extracted material.
If the efficiency improves and other resources are recovered then that is obviously preferable but it is naive to believe the primary argument for the revised methods is as other than adjucent to power generation for which there exist better options.

It matters little in the end how fossilised fuels are justified the equation will always resolve as the ratio of 'hard' in ground / to 'free' atmospheric carbon.

So....does this mean that when we burn coal we are also putting all of those REEs into the sky?

Some, but mostly into the ash dump.

These privateers should pay themself the investment and collect themself the profit. It was the main idea of georges washinton and me. But this website and also green car reports are at the extreeme left.


"The first American power plant ***designed*** to capture carbon is scheduled to open at the end of this year. The Kemper County coal-gasification plant in eastern Mississippi will capture more than half its CO₂ emissions and pipe them to nearby oil fields. The project, which is supported in part by a DOE grant, has been plagued with cost overruns and opposition from both environmentalists and government-spending hawks. But Mississippi Power, a division of Southern Company, has pledged to persist. Company leaders say the plant’s use of lignite, a low-grade coal that’s plentiful in Mississippi, along with a ready market for its CO₂, will help offset the heavy cost of pioneering new technology.

The technology won’t spread, however, until governments require it, either by imposing a price on carbon or by regulating emissions directly. “Regulation is what carbon capture needs to get going,” says James Dooley, a researcher at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory."

"The customers pay not a cent, however, nor does American Electric Power (AEP), for the privilege of spewing six to seven million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year from Mountaineer’s thousand-foot-high stack. And that’s the problem. Carbon is dumped without limit because in most places it costs nothing to do so and because there is, as yet, no law against it in the U.S."..............

.........."The CO₂ is still underground, not in the atmosphere. It was only a quarter of one percent of the gas coming out the stack, but that was supposed to be just the beginning. AEP planned to scale up the project to capture a quarter of the plant’s emissions, or 1.5 million tons of CO₂ a year. The company had agreed to invest $334 million, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had agreed to match that. But the deal depended on AEP being able to recoup its investment. And after climate change legislation collapsed in the Senate, state utility regulators told the company that it could not charge its customers for a technology not yet required by law."

"Environmentalists say that clean coal is a myth. Of course it is: Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Air pollution in China, much of it from burning coal, is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year. That’s on top of the thousands who die in mining accidents, in China and elsewhere."

....."But in 1991 Norway instituted a carbon tax, which now stands at around $65 a metric ton. It costs Statoil only $17 a ton to reinject the CO₂ below the seafloor. So at Sleipner, carbon storage is much cheaper than carbon dumping, which is why Statoil has invested in the technology. Its natural gas operation remains very profitable."

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