The United States Energy Association recently hosted a webinar to provide an update on critical minerals (CMs) and rare earth elements (REE) research development and deployment (RD&D) being performed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE), including NETL’s robust in-house research project portfolio as well as the Lab’s extramural program portfolio. The webinar featured opening remarks by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Kenneth Humphreys and Traci Rodosta, program manager for FE’s Critical Minerals and Coals to Products program. Additional speakers included REE and CM experts from NETL, who were joined by those from industry and academia.
DOE has accelerated RD&D efforts in recent years to help develop a domestic supply of REE and CM because the materials are essential components of modern devices and underpin technologies that support a wide range of industries, including health care and national defense. The United States currently imports most of its REE and CM from China, but recent research has shown that America’s vast coal resources contain quantities of these valuable materials that could potentially reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources while creating new industries and jobs in regions where coal played key economic roles.
“R&DD in these areas is quickly evolving,” Mary Anne Alvin, technology manager for NETL’s Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals program, said. “We want to share the successes we have made here at NETL as well as breakthrough accomplishments being made by our partners in industry and academia to address the potential for near-term on-shore production of REE and CM from coal-based resources and alternate materials.”
Tom Tarka, technical portfolio lead for NETL’s Research and Innovation Center (RIC) Rare Earth Elements project presented an overview of the Lab’s research portfolio during the webinar. Afterward, Kelly Rose, a research geologist in RIC, discussed how researchers are developing a geo-data science-driven method to assess REE in coal and related systems.
The webinar then featured discussions on bench- and small pilot projects producing REE and CM. Alvin opened this session with an NETL program portfolio overview, which was followed by several additional speakers representing projects that have successfully produced REE in domestic, first-of-kind, small pilot facilities from coal-based sources.
“The development of an economically competitive domestic supply of REE and CM from U.S. coal and coal byproducts will help maintain our nation’s economic growth and national security,” Tarka said.