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NETL Researcher to Discuss Wyoming Innovation Center Project
A headshot photograph of Christina Lopano.

NETL’s Christina Lopano, Ph.D., will participate in a webinar Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 2-3 p.m. ET, highlighting important NETL-led rare earth element (REE) research at the Wyoming Innovation Center (WyIC) in Gillette, Wyoming.

Lopano will join experts from government and academia for a panel to discuss the creation of the WyIC, current and upcoming projects and the impact the Center’s work will have on emerging market opportunities and innovative methods to use domestic coal resources in the growing clean energy economy.

“The facility opened its doors this summer, and we are excited to continue our collaboration there with the community of Gillette and the University of Wyoming,” Lopano said. “This webinar will help publicize NETL’s work demonstrating economically viable production of REEs from coal-related feedstocks. This research is intended to culminate in a pilot-scale facility at the Center and has the potential to launch a new industry in extracting critical REE materials from the ash of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coals.”

Wyoming is the nation’s top coal producer, with significant potential to recover REEs from its coal resources. This prospective new industry could ultimately be an economic development opportunity for Wyoming while providing national security benefits. REEs are crucial for a variety of economic, energy and defense applications, but the current supply chain is dominated by other countries. A domestic source of REEs would insulate the U.S. from disruptions in global trade.

“We plan to scale up the extraction technologies we’ve previously developed in the laboratory and deploy those technologies in a small pilot facility,” Lopano said. “This will be a significant step toward commercialization of critical minerals from coal by-products in the United States.”

The NETL project is supported by the DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), which is designed to increase the number of energy technologies developed at DOE’s national labs that graduate to commercial development and achieve commercial success. The fund also enhances DOE’s technology transitions system with an enterprising and competitive approach to lab-industry partnerships. Through the TCF, the applied program offices and national laboratories can pursue a strategic, forward-looking, competitive approach to commercializing technologies from lab-industry collaborations.

The webinar, which is presented by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, is free and open to the public. Click here to register.

The WyIC conducts research on carbon capture, REE extraction from fly ash and other coal-to-products research. The Center was envisioned as a facility that could meet the need for a location to conduct large-scale research and was built through a cooperative effort that included support from the Wyoming Business Council, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the City of Gillette and Campbell County.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.