Technology development

DOD Supports NETL-Supported REEs From Coal Ash Technology Development

The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) progress on a $4 million plan to pursue technology for recovering rare earth elements (REE) and other critical minerals from coal ash has its roots in a groundbreaking project led by NETL and private partner – Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI).

The DOD action is an example of how NETL leverages cooperative partnerships for technology development in the public and private sectors.

PSI, with support from NETL, demonstrated a concept for how REE concentrates can be produced using Appalachian coal ash resources. The objective of the project was to provide a potential national source of REE as well as a viable environmental remediation process for coal fly ash.

REEs are crucial for a variety of economic, energy and defense applications. The current supply chain is dominated by other countries. A domestic source would protect the United States from disruptions in global REE trade.

With support from NETL, PSI and the Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) at the University of Kentucky investigated the content of REE, including yttrium and scandium (REYSc) in coal-fired power plant ash . PSI has developed the design of a pilot-scale facility to economically produce marketable REYSc-rich concentrates and commercially viable co-products from coal ash feedstock using physical enrichment and recovery processes. and chemicals that are safe for the environment and with high efficiency.

During Phase 2 of the NETL-supported project, PSI, Winner Water Services (WWS) and UK CAER constructed a pilot micro-plant located at PSI in Andover, Massachusetts, and a pilot plant for chemical treatment at WWS’s Sharon, Pennsylvania, location.

“The project was a crucial stepping stone to commercial-scale facilities capable of producing tons of REYSc per day,” said Mark Render, project manager for NETL. “It’s a great example of what can happen when private industry, academia and a DOE national laboratory work together.”

Since this NETL/PSI success, the technology has taken another step in its evolution with the support of the DOD. In cooperation with the Department of Defense’s Office of Industrial Policy (IndPol), PSI initiated the Prototype Pilot Project “Critical Minerals from Coal Ash” – a 30-month US$4 million project to develop and demonstrate a pilot-scale installation using PSI’s patented extraction technology. The project is part of IndPoi’s Industrial Base Analysis and Maintenance (IBAS) program.

IBAS Program Director Adele Ratcliff added, “The DOD fully supports interagency research and development. This effort was originally started with funding from the Department of Energy and we are excited to help advance this new technology. »

Many REEs and oxides are essential for military and commercial applications, including electric vehicle drive motors; motors for hard drives used in data storage centers; satellites and lasers; magnets used in precision-guided munitions, optical and audio systems; petroleum refinement; and glass additives.

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