Physical Sciences Produce REE Concentrates from Coal Ash
- Category: tungsten’s News
- Published on Friday, 02 April 2021 22:45
A National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) – supported project by Physical Sciences, Inc. (PSI) has confirmed its capabilities to produce rare earth element concentrates (REE concentrates) using available coal ash resources from Appalachia, providing a potential domestic source and ways of local environmental remediation.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL are prioritizing the establishment of a domestic supply chain for the production of rare earth elements, because such resources are critical to the U.S. economy, energy, and defense. However, the current supply chain is dominated by other countries. Therefore, domestic resources will protect the United States from any interference in the global rare earth trade, and US coal ash resources are expected to become a potential source of rare earth elements.
With funding from NETL, PSI and the University of Kentucky Applied Energy Research Center (UK CAER) conducted a comprehensive research work to investigate the content of rare earth elements in coal ash from coal-fired power plants, including yttrium and scandium (REYSc). The REEs are necessary for high-tech manufacturing and can be used to produce high-performance optical devices and lasers, powerful magnets, superconductors, solar panels, and consumer products, such as smart phones and computer hard drives.
PSI has conducted feasibility and technical and economic studies on the recovery of rare earth elements from coal ash, and designed equipment for pilot trials to use environmentally safe and high-yield physical and chemical enrichment and recovery processes to produce enrichment from ash raw materials. REE concentrates and by-products of commercial value.
In the second phase of the project, PSI, Winner Water Services (WWS), and the University of Kentucky Applied Energy Research Center built a micro pilot facility at PSI’s site in Andover, Massachusetts, and at WWS's site in Sharon, Pennsylvania A pilot plant was established for chemical treatment.
The physical processing capacity of the existing facility at the University of Kentucky Applied Energy Research Center is approximately 0.4 tons of ash per day. The mini-pilot is used for preliminary testing and troubleshooting of failures encountered in larger-scale pilot-scale facilities. The pilot facility in Sharon, Pennsylvania has a chemical treatment capacity of 0.5 tons of coal ash per day. The project team successfully produced more than 100 grams of rare earth element concentrate and delivered the final product with greater than 50% REYSc content on an elemental basis.
PSI and WWS are further optimizing liquid-liquid extraction operations. With the acquisition of new test data, the research team will update its technical and economic model, with the goal of achieving a return on investment within 10 to 12 years.
NETL's project manager Mark Render said, "The development and demonstration of modular pilot-scale physical and chemical plants is a key step towards a commercial-scale facility that can produce several tons of REE concentrates per day. The production of rare earth elements from waste will enable utilization of a waste product in an environmentally benign way to produce REYSc while generating jobs and economic growth.”
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