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Battelle, Rare Earth Salts team on DOE project to recover rare earth oxides from coal ash

Battelle is teaming with Rare Earth Salts (RES) on a project, “Recovery of High Purity Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from Coal Ash via a Novel Separations Process,” to produce valuable rare earth oxides from coal fly ash, converting them to the high purities necessary for a saleable product.

The two organizations will advance the development of REE processing by combining RES’ novel separation and purification process and Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process. Under this project they will validate that they can generate environmentally benign and economically sustainable REE products from domestic coal ash sources at purities above 90%.

The total funding for the project is about $875,000.

Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process selectively leaches REE from the coal fly ash. What is unique is that the chemicals are almost entirely recycled instead of being lost to leaching during the process. This approach significantly reduces costs, allows the exclusion of key contaminants, and provides a concentrated source of REEs along with other co-products. This process was originally used by Battelle to sustainably and safely disarm expired artillery munitions.

RES’ proprietary separation technology is cost efficient and environmentally friendly. The company recycles its manufacturing inputs so virtually no waste is created, making RES the most sustainable producer of rare earth oxides globally. RES began commercial production of rare earth oxides at its Nebraska-based facility earlier this year with a standard purity of 99.9%.



Metals in coal ash include uranium and thorium.  Thorium is an issue for existing REE production, because it is chemically similar and the EPA and NRC consider it to be a radioactive hazard (though it's far less of one than natural uranium).  Ideally this process would recover U and Th too and allow them to be set aside for future use as nuclear fuel.

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