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National Lab Works to Extract Rare Earth Elements From Coal

For more than a century, coal has increased our nation’s prosperity and energy security. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are investigating whether this abundant domestic resource could yield yet another potentially game-changing benefit—a domestic supply of rare earth elements. Read full article.

Techno-Economic Analysis of Rare Earth Element Recovery

A continuing challenge in most technology development is striking a careful balance between ways the technology stands to benefit society and whether the costs of that technology outweigh those perks. Recovering rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and coal by-products is no exception. REEs are a crucial component of many modern technologies, making them vital to national security and technological innovation. Currently, the global market is dominated by inexpensive off-shore production sources, but new, domestic sources would help to ensure U.S. security. Therefore, researchers must assess, through cost-benefit analysis, whether REEs can be separated and recovered from coal-based feedstocks in an economically feasible fashion. View full release.

NETL Works to Extract Valuable Rare Earth Elements from a Familiar Source—Coal

Coal powered the industries that created and transported products used by millions all over the world before other fuel options became more prevalent. By working on ways to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and its by-products, NETL researchers are unlocking innovations that could once again make one of America’s most abundant natural resources part of the products people use every day. View full release.

UK Mining Engineering, CAER Receive DOE Funding for Rare Earth Element Research

The University of Kentucky has received two of three U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants for its promising work in the emerging field of rare earth element (REE) research. View full release.

DOE Announces $6.9 Million for Research on Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced it is investing $6.9 million in rare earth element (REE) research through two funding opportunities. Three new projects have been selected to receive approximately $3 million for research aimed at producing salable REEs from domestic coal and coal by-products. In addition, DOE has announced the availability of an additional $3.95 million for additional projects to accelerate separation and extraction processes for REEs. View full release.

NETL and EPRI Collaborating to Identify and Extract REEs from Coal and Coal Ash

Researchers working under an NETL FY2017 Field Work Proposal (FWP) are searching for high concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs) in coal-based resources. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the NETL Research and Innovation Center (RIC) signed a memorandum of understanding for exchange and analysis of promising coal by-product samples containing REEs. EPRI has provided NETL with twenty- seven (27) coal power plant samples during the beginning stages of a program to determine which of them contain the most REEs (May 2017 issue of the EPRI Journal).

Coal is a precious resource in the United States and abroad. The United States has a 250-year supply of coal and generates over 30 percent of its electricity through coal combustion. Approximately 1 Gt of coal has been mined annually in the U.S. in recent years (1990–2014), although the amount has decreased in 2015 and 2016 to 896 Mt and 728 Mt., respectively. Most of the coal produced in the United States is used for generating power, but substantial quantities are used to manufacture steel, chemicals, and activated carbons. Valuable and extraordinarily useful minerals and REEs are present within coal and coal by-products such as coal preparation wastes, mining by-products, and coal combustion by-products (ashes and slags) that, once extracted, can be used to manufacture diverse technologies, including hybrid electric vehicles, lighting, optics, and communications equipment.

NETL Selects Projects to Enhance Research Into Recovery of Rare Earth Elements From Domestic Coal and Coal By-products

The Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected five new projects to receive funding for research in support of the laboratory’s effort to identify and characterize coal and coal by-products containing high concentrations of Rare Earth Elements (REE). View full release.

Project News: WVU Study Will Determine Amount of Rare Earth Elements in the Region's Coal Mining Waste

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory recently awarded West Virginia University a project to survey acid mine drainage solids to identify the concentration and amount of rare earth elements available in AMD solids. Read the full article.

Department of Energy to Invest $2 Million for Small-Scale Production of Rare Earth Elements

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have announced approximately $2 million in federally funded financial assistance for the first phase of cost-shared projects aimed to achieve small-scale production of salable rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic sources of pre-combustion coal and coal by-products. View full release.

Popular Science Article Highlights NETL Rare Earth Efforts

The article "Calling on Coal", Corinne Iozzio, Popular Science, page 37, September/October 2016, positively highlights NETL efforts on recovery of rare earths from abundant domestic coal by-products. The author also discusses the great strategic importance of the rare earth elements in high tech commercial products such as cell phones, wind turbines, and automobile batteries.

Contacts: Evan Granite, Mary Anne Alvin, Kurt Rothenberger, Shelley Martin

Study: Appalachian Coal Ash filled with Rare Earth Elements

RALEIGH, N.C., May 27 (UPI) -- Of all the coal ash produced in the United States, the waste generated by Appalachian coal operations is the richest in rare earth elements.

Researchers from Duke University collected coal ash samples from power plants throughout the United States, including those in the largest coal-producing regions: the Appalachian Mountains; southern and western Illinois; and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Read the full article at

2015 GSA Energy Division Best Paper Award Received

A presentation entitled “Geochemical Characterization of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts Utilizing Synchrotron Technology,” presented by Christina Lopano at the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting in Baltimore Maryland, November 2015, received the 2015 GSA Energy Division Best Paper Award. The presentation was selected from among oral presentations at the energy geology-sponsored sessions at the GSA annual meeting for its exceptional scientific merit and visual appeal as well as for the excellent poise and delivery skills of the presenter. This presentation showcased data collected at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and highlighted preliminary results on REE speciation in fly ash and bottom ash.  
Analyses via synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) at the Stanford Synchrotron Light Source (SSRL) were utilized to find areas of REE enrichment in CCB samples, then micro X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (XANES) was used at the Ce LIII absorption edge to study REE binding environment. Ce was studied due to its concentration in the samples, different oxidation states (3+ and 4+), and as a proxy for other LREEs. Ce XANES spectra were collected at small hot spots within the samples and compared against a variety of standards. XRF mapping and Ce XANES results suggest the presence of REE phosphates, oxides, and sulfates in the fly ash and bottom ash samples analyzed. The XRF mapping also confirmed separate trends between LREE and HREE.
This work was co-authored by Mengling Stuckman (ORISE-MCD), Christine Thomas (former ORISE, Seneca), Jinesh Jain (AECOM), and Evan Granite (Functional Materials). Christina Lopano, Materials Characterization Division 690, 412-386-7230. View abstract.

DOE Selects Projects To Enhance Its Research into Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 10 projects to receive funding for research in support of the lab’s program on Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal By-Products. The selected research projects will further program goals by focusing on the development of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic coal and coal by-products. View full release.

Solicitations/Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA)

NETL uses Fedconnect and/or and FedBizOpps to post solicitations and funding opportunity announcements and amendments, receive proposals and applications, and disseminate award information. Entities wishing to participate in these solicitations will need to register at these websites. Proposals will be accepted only through FedConnect or Grants.Gov as indicated in the solicitation document.

You can be alerted when a new solicitation/funding opportunity becomes available. Register to be notified of new business opportunities with NETL.  

Status Posted Date Solicitation/FOA Number Title Closing Date
Closed 2015/06/26 DE-FOA-0001202
Opportunities to Develop High Performance, Economically Viable, and Environmentally Benign Technologies to Recover Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from Domestic Coal and Coal Byproducts
Closed 2016/07/12 DE-SOL-0009067 Rare Earth Element Identification and Characterization of Coal and Coal By-Products Containing High Rare Earth Element Concentrations. 2016/08/11
Closed 2016/09/28 DE-FOA-0001627 Production of Salable Rare Earth Elements from Domestic U.S. Coal and Coal By-Products 2016/12/08
Closed 2017/05/17 DE-SOL-0010982 Sampling, Characterization and Round Robin Analyses of Domestic U.S. Coal Based Resources Containing High Rare Earth Element (REE) Concentrations. 2017/06/16
Closed 2017/06/05 DE-FOA-0001718 Development of Separation and Extraction Processes for Production of Rare Earth Elements (REE) Materials from Domestic U.S. Coal and Coal By-Products 2017/07/18

Upcoming Conferences

Below is a list of upcoming conferences related to Rare Earth Element research for which NETL researchers will be presenting or in attendance. 

Session Title/Subject Conference (Location) Date
Sessions on Rare Earth Elements in Fossil Fuel Derived Solids and Liquids (tentative)
34th International Pittsburgh Coal Conference (Sheraton Hotel at Station Square, Pittsburgh, PA) 2017/09/05 - 2017/09/08
Sessions on Rare Earth Elements in Fossil Fuel Derived Solids and Liquids (tentative) 2017 AIChE Annual National Meeting (Minneapolis Hilton and Convention Center, Minneapolis, MN) 2017/10/29 - 2017/11/03