News Release

Release Date: September 28, 2017

DOE Announces Nine New Projects to Advance Technology Development for the Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal By-products

National Energy Technology Laboratory researchers Elliot Roth and Megan Macala sonicate coal-based materials to enhance particle separation and rare earth element extraction.

The Department of Energy today announced nine projects to receive approximately $4 million in cost-shared federal funding to improve the technical, environmental, and economic performance of new and existing technologies that extract, separate, and recover rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic U.S. coal and coal by-products.

The selected research projects will further the goals of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s Rare Earth Elements Program by focusing on the development of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of REEs from domestic coal and coal by-products.

The development of an economically competitive supply of REEs will help to maintain the nation’s economic growth and national security. Our vast domestic coal resources contain quantities of REEs that offer the potential to reduce our dependence on others for these critical materials and create new industries in regions where coal plays an important economic role.

The new projects will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and are supported through the funding opportunity announcement, Development of Transformational Separation and Extraction Processes for Production of Rare Earth Element (REE) Materials from Domestic U.S. Coal and Coal By-Products.

Selected projects fall under three Areas of Interest.

Area of Interest 1—Advanced, Novel Technology Development for Initial REE Extraction, Concentrating to ≥ 2 Weight Percent

  • Concentrating Rare Earth Elements in Acid Mine Drainage using Coal Combustion By-ProductsThe Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) will collaborate with state agencies to carry out field investigation aimed to screen and evaluate the seasonal changes of rare earths for acid mine drainage discharges that have high recovery potential. The team will ultimately concentrate the rare earths using a highly selective sequential extraction procedure.

DOE Funding: $399,967; Non-DOE Funding: $145,985; Total Funding: $545,952

  • Low-Cost Rare Earth Element (REE) Recovery from Acid Mine Drainage SludgeResearch Triangle Institute (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina) plans to use a staged, membrane-based treatment approach to separate, concentrate, and ultimately recover REEs from acid mine drainage (AMD) sludge that will take place over an 18-month performance period.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $100,000; Total Funding: $500,000

  • Low-Temperature Plasma Treatment for Enhanced Recovery of Highly Valued Critical REEs from CoalUniversity of Kentucky Research Foundation (Lexington, Kentucky) will evaluate the mineralogy, leachability and the effect of plasma pretreatment for the various segments of selected feed stocks containing greater than 300 ppm of total REEs on a dry, whole mass basis.

DOE Funding: $322,352; Non-DOE Funding: $82,617; Total Funding: $404,969

  • Economic Extraction and Recovery of REEs and Production of Clean Value-Added Products from Low-Rank Coal Fly Ash—The University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota) will collect ash samples and perform characterizations that will be used to inform the development of extraction and concentration approaches. The project will also evaluate a novel method of value-added beneficiation of the clean fly ash.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $108,812; Total Funding: $508,812

  • Development of a Cost-Effective Extraction Process for the Recovery of Heavy and Critical Rare Earth Elements from the Clays and Shales Associated with CoalVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia) will investigate ion-exchange leaching and concentration technologies that can extract and enrich the REEs derived from coal resources, specifically clay and shale.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $100,000; Total Funding: $500,000

National Energy Technology Laboratory researchers Mac Gray and Chris Wilfong utilize sorbents to extract solubilized rare earth elements from aqueous solutions.

Area of Interest 2—Optimization of Current State-of-the-Art Separation Technologies for Initial REE Extraction, Concentrating to ≥ 210 Weight Percent

  • Economic Extraction, Recovery, and Upgrading of Rare Earth Elements from Coal-Based Resources—The University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) will demonstrate and improve methods to economically extract, recover, and upgrade the REE contents from coal-based resources using integrated modeling, coal preparation, bio-oxidation, solution conditioning, heap leaching, solvent extraction, and precipitation technologies to cleanly and cost-effectively produce rare earth-bearing products with more than 8 weight percent REE.

DOE Funding: $399,200; Non-DOE Funding: $99,800; Total Funding: $499,000

  • Coupled Hydrothermal Extraction and Ligand-Associated Organosilica Media Recovery of REEs from Coal Fly AshWayne State University (Detroit, Michigan) will examine the potential to couple hydrothermal leaching of coal fly ash with engineering a custom ligand-associated media to provide an organic solvent-free method of extracting and recovering REEs to be extracted to an acidic aqueous system that will have high concentrations of the targeted REEs (2-10 weight percent).

DOE Funding: $430,922; Non-DOE Funding: $112,857; Total Funding: $543,779

Area of Interest 3—Technology Advancements for High Purity REE Extractions, Concentrating to 90.0–99.99 Weight Percent

  • Recovery of High Purity Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from Coal Ash via a Novel Electrowinning ProcessBattelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, Ohio) will advance development of REE processing company Rare Earth Salts’ novel electrowinning separation and purification process and Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process, and validate that they can generate environmentally benign and economically sustainable REE products from domestic coal ash sources at purities above 90 percent.

            DOE Funding: $674,940; Non-DOE Funding: $200,000; Total Funding: $874,940

  • At-source Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine DrainageWest Virginia University Research Corporation (Morgantown, West Virginia) will develop a process to extract an enriched, mixed REE product from Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) at the production site, upstream of conventional AMD treatment. The project will demonstrate that improvements in REE extraction efficiency can be obtained through separation of REEs from aqueous phase AMD, upstream of conventional AMD treatment.

            DOE Funding: $644,060; Non-DOE Funding: $220,198; Total Funding: $864,258

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements.