Pairing Traditional Energy Role With Pioneering Public-Private Coal-based Rare Earth Elements Initiative
Action at the Federal, State, Academic and Private Sector Level provides encouragement and industrial revitalization
One does not have to look far to understand why North Dakota is leading the USA with innovative coal programs. North Dakota has three coal-based rare earth programs at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Word has it that citizens, private business and members of State and Local government have rallied behind Governor Douglas J. Burgum’s plan to put an innovation stake in the ground. Governor Burgum is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist and politician serving as the 33rd and current Governor of North Dakota since December 15, 2016. Notable for any state, North Dakota benefits from the governor’s 20 years of experience as a technology executive in the private sector. Perhaps most impressive is his role as the head of Microsoft Business Solutions.
Visit with Energy Secretary Rick Perry draws attention to ambitious coal energy and rare earth elements programs in North Dakota.
Burgum welcomes U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, highlights innovation providing path forward for coal
Below are details about three coal-based rare earth element programs in North Dakota. Sources indicate there is much more to come from the state of North Dakota.
Investigation of Rare Earth Element Extraction from North Dakota Coal-Related Feedstocks
In Phase 1 of this project, the University of North Dakota (UND) project team identified locations in North Dakota with coal-related feed stocks having exceptionally high rare earth elements (REE) content and developed a simple, highly effective, and low-cost method to concentrate the REEs in the lignite feed stocks using a novel technology that takes advantage of the unique properties of lignite. In laboratory experiments, UND achieved greater than 2% concentration of rare earths in the mixed rare earth concentrate while recovering up to 35% of the rare earths from the incoming feedstock. In Phase 2, the University is partnering with Microbeam Technologies, Barr Engineering, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and MLJ Consulting to investigate the feasibility of recovering REEs from North Dakota lignite and lignite-related feedstocks. The team will scale-up the technology and demonstrate it at a scale of 10-20 kilograms per hour feed stock throughput and evaluate the economics for a commercial-scale, rare-earths-concentrating facility in North Dakota. The project also includes development of a commercialization plan and market assessment. The Lignite Research Program of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, North American Coal Corporation, Great River Energy, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Great Northern Properties, the University of North Dakota, and the North Dakota University System are cost-sharing this project.
Sampling, Characterization and Round Robin Analyses of Domestic U.S. Coal Based Resources Containing High Rare Earth Element (REE) Concentrations
This project will collect and analyze samples of primarily lignite based coal; and also, some bituminous coals from Northern, Central, and Southern Appalachia regions, and coal-related materials (run-of-mine coal; roof rock; overburden clay; shale interlay formations; mine seam underlays; coal preparation refuse; ash from coal combustion, gasification, and liquefaction) that have a minimum concentration of rare earth elements (REE) of 300 ppm as the material is removed from the ground, with no processing other than drying. This sample analysis for REEs will be done by inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. A round robin analysis study will also be performed to quantify the within-lab and inter-lab variation of the most commonly used methods for analyzing REE content in ores and coal bearing materials.
Economic Extraction and Recovery of REEs and Production of Clean Value-Added Products from Low-Rank Coal Fly Ash
The project’s objective is to develop an economically viable and tailorable rare-earth element (REE) extraction and concentration method for low-rank coal (LRC) fly ash and bottom ash that produces a concentrate containing ?2 wt% total REE. This project will focus on LRC (lignite, subbituminous) combustion/gasification ashes. The ash samples will be collected from industry partner facilities, as well as from the existing sample database at the University of North Dakota for North Dakota lignites. The characterization to be performed will fully elucidate the abundance, form, and association of the REEs, both in the feed coals that produced the ash and the ashes. Additionally, the chemical composition, mineralogy, and morphology of the ash will be determined. Based on the characterization results, two ash samples will be downselected for laboratory-scale REE extraction and concentration testing. The laboratory-scale testing will involve evaluation of ash pretreatment methods, dilute acid leaching, and solvent extraction testing, which will be followed by REE concentration testing at downselected conditions and materials. The project will also evaluate a novel method of value-added beneficiation of the clean fly ash. Finally, based on the experimental testing, a preliminary technical and economic analysis will be completed to estimate capital and operating expenses and product revenues.