The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy is investing $6.9 million in rare earth element (REE) research through two funding opportunities. Three projects have been selected to receive approximately $3 million for research aimed at producing salable rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic coal and coal by-products. In addition, DOE has announced the availability of an additional $3.95 million for projects in three new topic areas to accelerate separation and extraction processes for REEs.
The demand for REEs has grown significantly in recent years, stimulating an interest in economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery. Since 2014, DOE has engaged in research to determine the economic feasibility of producing REEs from domestic coal and coal by-products.
The new projects were selected under the Production of Salable Rare Earth Elements from Domestic US Coal and Coal Byproducts funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Descriptions of the selected projects follow:
High Yield, Economical, Large Scale Production of Marketable Rare Earth Element Products from Coal Mining Refuse — Equinox Chemicals (Albany, GA) and project partners will conduct laboratory testing and prepare a technical design for a pilot plant to produce salable REEs. They will use by-products from an existing eastern Kentucky coal preparation plant as their source of REEs. Their phase 1 design will consider recovery and sale of coal from these preparation plant by-products as an additional source of revenue. Cost—DOE: $999,983
- Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mining Waste Materials — Inventure Renewables (Tuscaloosa, AL) and project partners will use coal-related materials from an eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal mine as their source of REEs. In phase 1, they will conduct laboratory testing and prepare their technical design for a pilot plant to produce salable REEs. Cost—DOE: $1,000,000
- Production of Salable Rare Earth Elements from Domestic US Coal and Coal Byproducts — Marshall Miller & Associates (Bluefield, VA) and project partners will conduct laboratory testing and prepare their technical design for a pilot plant to produce salable REEs. They will use by-products from an existing West Virginia coal preparation (coal washing) plant as their raw material for extracting REEs. Their phase 1 design includes recovery and sale of dry, fine, high-quality coal from this raw material as an additional source of revenue. Cost—DOE: $1,000,000
In addition, DOE has issued the Development of Separation and Extraction Processes for Production of Rare Earth Element (REE) Materials from Domestic US Coal and Coal By-Products funding opportunity announcement. Projects selected under this FOA will focus on improving the technical, environmental, and economic performance of existing processes that recover REEs from domestic U.S. coal and coal byproducts. This FOA has three topic areas:
- Advanced technology development for initial REE extraction
- Optimization of current state-of-the-art separation technologies for initial REE extraction
- Technology advancements for high purity REE extractions.
DOE anticipates making up to eight selections under this FOA. Projects require a minimum 20% cost share from each recipient.