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RARE EARTH ELEMENTS AND CRITICAL MINERALS FROM COAL-BASED RESOURCES

Description:

 

24. Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals from Coal-Based Resources

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $250,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,600,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: YES

 

America’s critical materials and manufacturing supply chains for production of commodity and national defense products no longer reside on our domestic shores but are controlled predominantly by offshore markets. When viewed in its entirety, the rare earth element (REE) and critical minerals (CM) supply chains consist of mining, separation, refining, alloying, and ultimately manufacturing devices and components. A major issue with respect to REE development in the U.S. is the lack of refining, alloying, and fabricating capacity that could process any domestic rare earth production [1].

 

Efforts conducted under DOE-NETL’s Feasibility of Recovering Rare Earth Elements (REE) program between 2014 and 2020, successfully demonstrated the very first step for the utilization of coal and coal-based resources to produce rare earth elements needed for our commodity and defense industries. This achievement was marked by demonstrating the technical feasibility and processing capability to extract and separate REE from domestic coal-based resources (i.e., run-of-mine coal, coal refuse (mineral matter that is removed from coal prior to shipment), clay/sandstone over/under-burden materials, ash (coal combustion residuals), and aqueous effluents such as acid mine drainage (AMD), and associated solids and precipitates resulting from AMD treatment), and recovery of these materials as mixed rare earth oxides or salts (MREO/MRES) at levels of 96-98% purity (960,000-980,000ppm) in three, first-of-a-kind, domestic, small pilot-scale facilities.

 

Currently, under DOE/NETL’s RD&D program, state-of-the-art, conventional separation process concepts are being assessed for near-future production of 1-3 tonnes/day of high-purity MREO in engineering prototype facilities. Conversion of the MREO/MRES into individually separated, high purity REO/RES, and subsequently conversion to metals (MREM/MRES) will be essential for alloying and/or incorporation of these materials into intermediate products (i.e., magnets; etc.) or into manufactured end-products (i.e., wind turbines; fuel cells; etc).

 

Building on the accomplishments achieved in DOE-NETL’s Feasibility of Recovering Rare Earth Elements program, efforts in 2019 were additionally directed to co-production of critical minerals (CM), as cobalt (Co), manganese (Mn), lithium (Li), and potentially aluminum (Al), zinc (Zn), germanium (Ge), and gallium (Ga) from domestic, coal-based, REE-containing feedstock materials. This expansion aligned DOE-NETL’s effort to support Executive Order 13817 [2], which lead to changing the name of DOE-NETL’s program in 2020 to Critical Minerals Sustainability.

 

Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics:

 

a.      Advanced Technology Development for Production of Individually Separated, High Purity, (ISHP) Rare Earth Oxides/Rare Earth Salts (REO/RES)

Commercial sources of rare earth elements include bastnaesite (La, Ce)FCO3, monazite, (Ce, La, Y, Th)PO4, and xenotime, YPO4. Processing of these materials to extract and recover REE typically begins with physical beneficiation (mineral processing as crushing, grinding, density separation, magnetic separation, etc.), and is typically followed by chemical separation (i.e., hydrometallurgy: the technique or process of extracting metals at ordinary temperatures by leaching ores with liquid solvents), leading to the production of a mixed rare earth concentrate. Separation of the individual rare earths from each other was considered to be difficult, due to similar physical and chemical properties of the elements. Ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques were developed in order to produce high purity single rare earth solutions or compounds. Alternate methods to concentrate, recover and separate rare earths include precipitation and coprecipitation, electrochemical and membrane processes, adsorption as well as oxidation and reduction processes.

 

Solvent extraction is generally accepted as the primary commercial technology for separating rare earths. Rare earth solvent extraction processes are generally classified as primary separations, which focus on separating rare earth elements from other elements, and secondary separations, which produce single or mixed (typically 2 or 3) rare earth products from mixed rare earth streams that are produced by primary separations. Commercially, D2EHPA, HEHEHP, Versatic 10, TBP, and Aliquat 336 have been widely used in rare earth solvent extraction processes. Up to hundreds of stages of mixers and settlers may need to be assembled in order to achieve the necessary extent of separation and product purity [1,2].

 

Applicants shall focus their proposals on:

·         Providing a summary review of (1) the literature with respect to the state-of-the-art techniques and (2) utilization of these techniques for the separation of mixed rare earth oxides (MREO) and rare earth salts (MRES) into individually separated, high purity (ISHP) materials. These techniques shall include, but not be limited to solvent extraction, ion chromatography, electrowinning, sublimation/condensation, etc.

·         Concept development for advanced processes/methodologies that address production of individually separated, high purity (i.e., ~90-99.99%) (ISHP), rare earth oxides (REO) and/or rare earth salts (RES) at a cost that is ~20% lower than the cost of producing these materials using currently available conventional separations technologies as solvent extraction, or alternate proven or commercially utilized separation techniques. Provide a detailed description of proposed advanced ISHP, reduced cost, separation processes.

·         Laboratory-scale proof-of-concept testing demonstrating

o   Separation of mixed light rare earth oxides/rare earth salts (MLREO/MLRES) from heavy rare earth oxides/rare earth salts (HREO/HRES)

o   Separation of the MLREO/MLRES into ISHP LREO/LRES

o   Separation of the MHREO/MHRES into ISHP HREO/HRES at a cost that is ~20% lower than that of conventional, commercially used, technologies.

·         Conduct of a preliminary techno-economic assessment (TEA) to address/validate the ~20% reduction of processing costs for each advanced separation concept.

·         Preliminary systems design for process scale-up for production 100-1000gm of ISHP REO/RES materials.

·         Final Report addressing each of the bulleted items identified above.

 

Questions – Contact: Mark Render, mark.render@netl.doe.gov

 

b.      Advanced Technology Development for Production of Rare Earth Metals

Approximately 40% of mined rare earth production is reduced to metals and alloys, including most of neodymium (Nd), samarium (Sm), and dysprosium (Dy), for applications such as neodymium metal for Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets, samarium metal for Sm-Co permanent magnets, lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), and neodymium (Nd) for rechargeable battery electrodes [1].

 

“A major issue for REE development in the United States is the lack of refining, alloying, and fabricating capacity that could process any future rare earth production [2].” The objective of the Advanced Technology Development for Production of Rare Earth Metals effort is to expand technology development beyond producing salable rare earth oxides (REO) from coal-based resources, ultimately producing rare earth metals (REMs) for use in intermediate and/or end product commercial and/or defense equipment through development of advanced metallization processing concepts.

 

Current technology utilizes metallothermic high temperature reduction with very strong reductants such as lanthanum and calcium, or high temperature fused salt electrowinning whereby rare earths are dissolved in molten halide salt solutions and reduced by an external direct current power source. Details on the history and the many techniques for the reduction of rare earths compounds to metals can be found in Gupta and Krishnamurthy 2005 [3].

 

Applicants shall focus their proposals on:

·         Development of advanced, novel, rare earth oxides/salts (REO/RES) to rare earth metals (REM) reduction techniques.

·         Production and analytic characterization of small quantities of individually separated, high purity (ISHP) REM resulting from advanced, novel, REO-REM reduction processes.

·         Conduct of preliminary techno-economic assessment (TEA).

·         Preliminary design for process scale-up.

·         Final Report addressing each of the bulleted items identified above.

 

Questions – Contact: Mark Render, mark.render@netl.doe.gov

 

c.       Production of Critical Minerals from Coal-Based Resources

In the U.S. DOE 2011 Critical Materials Strategy report [1], sixteen elements were assessed for criticality in wind turbines, EVs, PV cells and fluorescent lighting. The criticality assessment was framed in two dimensions: importance to clean energy and supply risk. Five rare earth elements (REE)—dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium—were found to be critical in the short term (2011–2015). These five REE are used in magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicles or phosphors in energy-efficient lighting. Other elements—cerium, indium, lanthanum and tellurium—were found to be near-critical. Between the short term and the medium term (2015–2025), the importance to clean energy and supply risk shift for some materials.

 

U.S. Executive Order 13817 [2], which was issued on December 20, 2017, focused on the reduction of our Nation’s vulnerability to disruption in the supply of critical minerals. In Executive Order 13817, a critical mineral is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security. Critical minerals were identified to include aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium [3].

 

As DOE-NETL has demonstrated the technical feasibility of recovering rare earth elements from coal-based resources, efforts are being extended to address the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from run-of-mine coal, coal refuse (mineral matter that is removed from coal prior to shipment), clay/sandstone over/under-burden materials, ash (coal combustion residuals), and aqueous effluents such as acid mine drainage (AMD), and associated solids and precipitates resulting from AMD treatment.

 

Applicants shall focus their proposals on:

·         Providing a summary review of the open literature that addresses the industrial processing of all thirty-seven (37) critical minerals from conventional resources. Processing methodologies as well as the annual production quantities and current utilization for all thirty-seven (37) critical minerals shall be described.

·         Production of critical minerals from coal-based (unconventional) resources shall be addressed. This shall include identifying:

o   Critical mineral concentrations in coal-based resources (highest ranked anthracite coal through low grade lignite; coal combustion ash; AMD; etc.)

o   Concepts for extraction, separation and recovery of critical minerals based on:

§  Potential technology transfer utilizing conventional industrial processing for extraction, separation and recovery of critical minerals from coal-based resources

§  Prior state-of-the-art for extraction, separation and recovery of critical minerals from coal-based resources

§  Projected critical mineral phase(s) resulting from processing (i.e., metals, oxides, salts, etc.)

§  Development of conceptual process flow diagrams (PFD) for the extraction, separation and recovery of critical minerals from coal-based resources.

·         Utilization of critical minerals for advanced alloy development or component production.

·         Final Report addressing each of the bulleted items identified above.

 

Questions – Contact: Mark Render, mark.render@netl.doe.gov

 

d.      Other

In addition to the specific subtopics listed, FE invites grant applications in other areas that fall within the scope of topic description provided above.

 

Questions – Contact: Mark Render, mark.render@netl.doe.gov

 

References: Subtopic a:

1.      Fang, X., Zhang, T.A., Dreisinger, D., Doyle, F. “A Critical Review on Solvent Extraction of Rare Earths from Aqueous Solutions.” Minerals Engineering, Vo. 56, February 2014, p.10-28, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0892687513003452

 

2.      Kolodynska, D., Fila, D., Gajda, B., Gega, J., Hubicki, Z. “Rare Earth Elements—Separation Methods Yesterday and Today.” Applications of Ion Exchange Materials in the Environment, pp 161-185, February 2019, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-10430-6_8

 

References: Subtopic b:

1.      Lucas, J., Lucas, P., Le Mercier, T., Rollat, A., and Davenport, W., “Rare Earths: Science, Technology, Production and Use.” Elsevier, 2014, https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/rare-earths-science-technology-production-and-use

 

2.      Humphries, M. “Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain.” Congressional Research Service Washington, DC., 2013, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41347.pdf#:~:text=Rare%20Earth%20Elements%3A%20The%20Global%20Supply%20Chain%20Congressional,chemical%20group%20called%20lanthanides%2C%20plus%20yttrium%20and%20scandium

 

3.      Gupta, C., and Krishnamurthy, N. “Extractive Metallurgy of Rare Earths.” CRC, Boca Raton, FL: 28-56, 2005, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88554.Extractive_Metallurgy_of_Rare_Earths

 

 

References: Subtopic c:

1.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Critical Minerals Strategy.” Energy.gov, December 2011, https://www.energy.gov/node/349057

 

2.      Executive Order 13817. “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.” December 20, 2017. List of Critical Minerals posted in Federal Register/Vol. 83, No. 97/Friday, May 18, 2018/Notices, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/26/2017-27899/a-federal-strategy-to-ensure-secure-and-reliable-supplies-of-critical-minerals

 

3.      U.S. DOI, Press Release. “Interior Seeks Public Comment on Draft List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy.” February 16, 2018, https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/interior-seeks-public-comment-draft-list-35-minerals-deemed-critical-us-national

 

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