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DOE selects 10 projects to enhance research into recovery of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 10 projects to receive funding for research in support of the lab’s program on Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts. The selected research projects will further program goals by focusing on the development of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic coal and coal byproducts.

The funded projects fall under two subtopic areas: (1) development of bench-scale; and (2) pilot-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproducts, including solids and liquids from coal-related operations.

REEs are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust. Due to their unique chemical properties, REEs have become essential components of many technologies spanning a range of applications including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. The demand, cost, and availability of REEs has grown significantly over recent years stimulating an emphasis on economically feasible approaches for REE recovery.

NETL plans to provide initial DOE Fossil Energy (FE) funding for all ten projects to perform Phase 1 research. Phase 1 projects will include sampling and characterization of coal-related materials such as coal, coal mine roof and floor materials, and/or coal ash to identify suitable material for recovery of REEs; a techno-economic feasibility study; and a system design for the proposed REE recovery technology.

Near the end of Phase 1, each project will provide their findings and a system design to NETL for evaluation and consideration to advance into Phase 2, the final phase of the project. Phase 2 projects will involve development and testing of the project-specific technology designed in Phase 1.

NETL expects that up to two bench-scale projects and up to two pilot-scale projects will advance into Phase 2. The successful execution of these Phase 2 projects will lead to the development and application of technology for economically recovering REEs from domestic coal and coal byproducts.

Area of Interest 1: Bench-Scale Technology Development
Description Funding
A Pollution-Prevention and Economically Viable Technology for Separation of Rare Earth Elements from Powder River Basin Coal Ashes
The University of Wyoming will design, develop, and test a three-step bench-scale extraction process that will use carbon dioxide and ferric chloride under supercritical conditions to recover REEs from Powder River Basin sub-bituminous post-combustion coal ash.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $599,987
Non-DOE: $220,609
Total Funding: $820,596
(27% cost share)
Novel Membrane and Electrodeposition-Based Separation and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Combustion Residues
Duke University will develop and test a solvent extraction and membrane filtration process to recover and concentrate REEs from coal combustion residues originating from a variety of geographic locations within the US.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $720,100
Non-DOE: $182,495
Total Funding: $902,595
(20% cost share)
Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine Drainage
West Virginia University Research Center will evaluate two extraction processes for recovery of REEs from acid mine drainage (AMD) and AMD sludge from Northern Appalachian coal mines. Each process will be evaluated for efficiency of recovery, concentration, waste stream contamination, and cost.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $749,994
Non-DOE: $200,540
Total Funding: $950,534
(21% cost share)
Rare Earth Metals Extraction
Neumann Systems Group, Inc. will conduct testing of a supercritical carbon dioxide/co-solvent and conventional acid/base extraction process for the recovery of REEs from post-combustion fly ash from Powder River Basin sub-bituminous coal and fly ash from Eastern bituminous and anthracite coal.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $749,603
Non-DOE: $237,472
Total Funding: $987,075
(24% cost share)
Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal with a Closed Loop Leaching Process
Battelle Memorial Institute will develop and test Battelle’s patented closed-loop acid digestion process for recovery of REEs from Ohio-based Middle Kittanning coal and post-combustion coal ash.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $710,000
Non-DOE: $190,000
Total Funding: $900,000
(21% cost share)
Bench-Scale Technology to Economically Separate, Extract, and Concentrate Mixed REEs from Coal and Coal Byproducts including Aqueous Effluents
The University of North Dakota work will focus on testing methods to improve the physical properties, chemical treatment, and separation of REE from coal. This project will recover REEs from North Dakota lignite coal, coal sediments, and coal drying refuse materials.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $748,847
Non-DOE: $188,000
Total Funding: $936,847
(20% cost share)

Area of Interest 2: Pilot-Scale Technology Development
Description Funding
Pilot-Scale Testing of an Integrated Circuit for the Extraction of Rare Earth Minerals and Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts Using Advanced Separation Technologies
The University of Kentucky Research Foundation will develop and test a one-fourth ton/hour pilot-scale plant for the extraction of REEs from Central Appalachian bituminous coal preparation plant refuse. The extraction and recovery process will consist of both physical and chemical separation methods that are currently available for deployment at pilot scale.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $999,797
Non DOE: $320,212
Total Funding: $1,320,009
(24% cost share)
High-Yield and Economical Production of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Ash
Physical Sciences, Inc. will evaluate a physical/chemical separation technology program to optimize recovery of REEs at pilot scale. The anticipated capacity of the plant is approximately 1–5 tons/day of post-combustion coal ash from burning Fire Clay coal from Eastern Kentucky, and from combusting anthracite refuse.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $999,463
Non DOE:$250,546
Total Funding: $1,250,596
(20% cost share)
Plasma-Based Rare Earth Element Recovery from Coal Fly Ash
Southern Research Institute work will focus on the development and testing of a metal melting process to concentrate REEs in post-combustion coal fly ash at pilot scale. The ash will originate from Central Appalachian, Eastern Kentucky bituminous coal.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $1,000,000
Non DOE: $289,900
Total Funding: $1,289,900
(22% cost share)
Economically Viable and Environmentally Benign High Performance Technology to Recover REE from Coal Byproducts
Tusaar, Inc. will evaluate their proprietary technology involving extraction and metal sorption media to develop a REE recovery process able to recover REEs from post-combustion coal ash produced from power plants in Kentucky and/or Ohio.
Phase 1 Cost: DOE: $984,424
Non DOE:$246,122
Total Funding: $1,230,546
(20% cost share)

Comments

HarveyD

Another trick from the coal industry lobbies to get more subsidies and extend dirty coal extraction?

kalendjay

The only "tricks" i see are the prospect of finding a mother lode of particular REE's among the thousands of miles of shaft, pillar and open pit coal sites now in existence (I think of the significant discovery of gallium in a Tennessee zinc mine some years back, which the landowners were not even informed of), and the avoidance of runoff and radiation poisoning in Chinese alluvial mining, now underway.

Lad

If there are REEs in coal ash, this might be a good way to get rid of the mountains and mountains of toxic ash bordering all coal power stations Separate out all the toxic elements and build bricks with the remaining.

SJC

They use ash in concrete, but not structural for safety reasons.

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