News Release

Release Date: October 26, 2017

DOE Awards University of North Dakota Contract to Sample and Characterize Coal-Based Resources Containing Rare Earth Elements

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have announced that the University of North Dakota has been awarded a 2-year, $1.5 million contract to sample and characterize U.S. coal-based resources containing high concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs). The university will also perform a round-robin inter-laboratory study on the analytical methods used to measure the concentration of REEs in U.S. coal-based resources.

REEs comprise a series of 17 chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust. They are essential components of many technologies spanning a range of applications, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. The demand for these elements has grown significantly over recent years, stimulating an emphasis on developing economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery.

The newly announced contract will support FE’s REE Program, which has characterized many REE-bearing samples of coal and coal by-products (results here). The University of North Dakota will supplement this work by sampling and characterizing U.S. domestic pre-combustion coal and coal-related materials with a minimum REE concentration of 300 parts per million, as the material is removed from the ground, with no processing other than drying. The University will also perform a round-robin inter-laboratory study to determine the lab-to-lab and method-to-method variability in analyzing the REE content of domestic U.S. based coal resources.

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.