A Pollution Prevention and Economically Viable Technology for Separation of Rare Earth Elements from Powder River Basin Coal Ashes


Schematic drawing of technical approach (3 steps)<br/>used for extracting REEs form PRB coal ashes
Schematic drawing of technical approach (3 steps)
used for extracting REEs form PRB coal ashes
University of Wyoming
Website:  University of Wyoming
Award Number:  FE0027069
Project Duration:  03/01/2016 – 08/31/2017
Total Award Value:  $820,596
DOE Share:  $599,987
Performer Share:  $220,609
Technology Area:  Rare Earth Recovery
Key Technology:  Separation Technologies
Location:  Laramie, Wyoming

Project Description

The University of Wyoming and its partners’ overall objective is to develop a new cost-effective pollution-avoidance or pollution-prevention technology with enhanced performance and great scalability for recovering high-value REEs from coal ash.  The working scope of the project includes: (1) coal ash sampling and characterization; (2) a feasibility study of the proposed technology for REE recovery from Powder River Basin (PRB) coal ashes; and (3) production of REEs-precipitates (Step 3) containing 2% by weight (wt%) rare earth.  Promoter and leaching solution (Step 1) will be used for producing REEs-precipitates containing 2 wt% rare earth from PRB coal ash via three steps: (1) REE leaching from coal ash with Promoter and leaching solution under supercritical conditions and assisted with ultrasound; (2) separation of REEs loading particles (tufts) from the leaching mixture by using the particles themselves, and (3) de-watering particles to obtain REEs-rich solid containing at least 2 wt% REEs.

Project Benefits

The new technology generates near-zero pollution (utilizing a promoter to help with leaching operations), can achieve at least 90% REE recovery from ash, and achieves reductions of 50% in energy requirements and 30% in costs compared to conventional REE recovery technologies.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager 
Otis Mills: otis.mills@netl.doe.gov
Technology Manager 
Mary Anne Alvin: maryanne.alvin@netl.doe.gov
Principal Investigator 
Maohong Fan: mfan@uwyo.edu

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