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U.S. Department of Energy Launches $140 Million Program to Develop America’s First-of-a-kind Critical Minerals Refinery

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released a Request for Information (RFI) on the design, construction and operation of a new facility to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a full-scale rare earth element (REE) and critical minerals (CM) extraction and separation refinery using unconventional resources. When built, this first-of-a-kind facility, supported by $140 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support American manufacturing jobs, and help build a strong domestic supply chain for the next generation of clean energy technologies vital to reaching President Biden’s goal of a net-zero emissions future.  

“Applying next-generation technology to convert legacy fossil fuel waste into a domestic source of critical minerals needed to strengthen our supply chains is a win-win — delivering a healthier environment and driving us forward to our clean energy goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s investment in the build out of this first-of-its kind critical minerals refinery, we are moving ideas from the lab to the commercial stage and demonstrating how America can compete for the global supply chain to meet the growing demand for clean energy technology.” 

Across the United States, there are billions of tons of coal waste and ash, acid mine drainage, and produced water. The legacy wastes left behind by coal mining and related activities all contain a wide variety of valuable minerals and materials. Each of them offers an untapped resource for producing a wealth of critical minerals. REEs and CMs are essential materials that are used in a broad range of technologies that are significant to national security and energy, such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, electric vehicles, semiconductors, and hydrogen fuel cells.  

Currently, even when REEs are being mined within the U.S., they are shipped overseas for processing, before being sold back to the U.S. in more expensive products. 

The RFI seeks information from industry, investors, developers, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and potentially affected communities including environmental justice, tribal, energy transition, and other communities. The RFI solicits feedback on demonstration facility features, supply chain considerations, research and development needs, business models, and potential societal impacts and benefits. 

The information requested will also help inform a site-selection process that emphasizes active community outreach and consultations with historically underrepresented communities and prioritizes environmental justice. 
This is solely a request for information and is not a Funding Opportunity Announcement. DOE is not accepting applications to this RFI.  

Review the RFI here. Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to REEdemoRFI@netl.doe.gov, with the subject line “DE-FOA-0002686-RFI” no later than 8:00 p.m. ET on March 31, 2022.  

FECM funds research, development, demonstration and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial sources, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use. Priority areas of technology work include point-source carbon capture, hydrogen with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, critical mineral production, and carbon dioxide removal. To learn more, visit the FECM website, sign up for FECM news announcements and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website.