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Title: Distribution and Speciation of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts

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Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Energy Technology Lab. (NETL), Pittsburgh, PA, and Morgantown, WV (United States). In-house Research
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Resource Relation:
Conference: 18th International Conference on Heavy Metals in the Environment. Ghent, Belgium
Country of Publication:
United States
REE; µ-XANES and XRF; Sequential Extraction; Fly Ash; Coal

Citation Formats

Stuckman, Mengling, Lopano, Christina, Dixon, Emily, and Granite, Evan. Distribution and Speciation of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts. United States: N. p., 2016. Web.
Stuckman, Mengling, Lopano, Christina, Dixon, Emily, & Granite, Evan. Distribution and Speciation of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts. United States.
Stuckman, Mengling, Lopano, Christina, Dixon, Emily, and Granite, Evan. Thu . "Distribution and Speciation of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts". United States. doi:.
title = {Distribution and Speciation of Rare Earth Elements in Coal Combustion Byproducts},
author = {Stuckman, Mengling and Lopano, Christina and Dixon, Emily and Granite, Evan},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Thu Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016}

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  • Objectives: Through this grant, Battelle proposes to address Area of Interest (AOI) 1 to develop a bench-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal ash. U.S. coal and coal byproducts provide the opportunity for a domestic source of REEs. The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has characterized various coal and coal byproducts samples and has found varying concentrations of REE ranging up to 1,000 parts per million by weight. The primary project objective is to validate the economic viability of recovering REEs from the coal byproduct coal ash using Battelle’s patented closed-loop Acid Digestion Processmore » (ADP). This will be accomplished by selecting coal sources with the potential to provide REE concentrations above 300 parts per million by weight, collecting characterization data for coal ash samples generated via three different methods, and performing a Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) for the proposed process. The regional availability of REE-laden coal ash, the regional market for rare earth concentrates, and the system capital and operating costs for rare earth recovery using the ADP technology will be accounted for in the TEA. Limited laboratory testing will be conducted to generate the parameters needed for the design of a bench scale system for REE recovery. The ultimate project outcome will be the design for an optimized, closed loop process to economically recovery REEs such that the process may be demonstrated at the bench scale in a Phase 2 project. Project Description: The project will encompass evaluation of the ADP technology for the economic recovery of REEs from coal and coal ash. The ADP was originally designed and demonstrated for the U.S. Army to facilitate demilitarization of cast-cured munitions via acid digestion in a closed-loop process. Proof of concept testing has been conducted on a sample of Ohio-based Middle Kittanning coal and has demonstrated the feasibility of recovering REEs using the ADP technology. In AOI 1, Ohio coal sources with the potential to provide a consistent source of rare earth element concentrations above 300 parts per million will be identified. Coal sample inventories from West Virginia and Pennsylvania will also be assessed for purposes of comparison. Three methods of preparing the coal ash will be evaluated for their potential to enhance the technical feasibility and economics of REE recovery. Three sources of coal ash are targeted for evaluation of the economics of REE recovery in this project: (1) coal ash from power generation stations, to include fly ash and/or bottom ash, (2) ash generated in a lower temperature ashing process, and (3) ash residual from Battelle’s coal liquefaction process. Making use of residual ash from coal liquefaction processes directly leverages work currently being conducted by Battelle for DOE NETL in response to DE-FOA-0000981 entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Research and Development Leading to Cost-Competitive Coal-to-Liquids Based Jet Fuel Production.” Using the sample characterization results and regional information regarding REE concentration, availability and cost, a TEA will be developed. The previously generated laboratory testing results for leaching and REE recovery via the ADP will be used to perform the TEA, along with common engineering assumptions for scale up of equipment and labor costs. Finally, upon validation of the economic feasibility of the process by the TEA, limited laboratory testing will be performed to support the design of a bench scale system. In a future project phase, it is envisioned that the bench scale system will be constructed and operated to prove the process on a continuous basis.« less
  • This final report provides a complete summary of the activities, results, analytical discussion, and overall evaluation of the project titled “Economical and Environmentally Benign Extraction of Rare Earth Elements (REES) from Coal & Coal Byproducts” under DOE Award Number DE-FE-0027155 that started in March 2016 and ended December 2017. Fly ash was selected as the coal-byproduct source material due to fact that it is readily available with no need for extensive methods to obtain the material, it is produced in large quantities (>50 million tons per year) and had REE concentrations similar to other coal-byproducts. The selected fly ash usedmore » throughout this project was from the Mill Creek power generating facility operated by Louisville Gas and Electric located in Louisville, KY and was subjected to a variety of physical and chemical characterization tests. Results from fusion extractions showed that the selected fly-ash had a TREE+Y concentration of 480 ppm with critical REEs concentration of 200 ppm. The fly ash had an outlook ratio of 1.25 and an estimated value of $16-$18 worth of salable REEs per 1-tonne of fly ash. Additional characterizations by optical evaluation, QEMSCAN, XRD, size fractionation, and SEM analysis showed the fly ash consisted of small glassy spherules with a size range between 1 to 110 µm (ave. diam. of 13 um), was heterogeneous in chemical composition (main crystalline phases: aluminum oxides and iron oxides) and was primarily an amorphous material (75 to 80%). A simple stepped approach was completed to estimate the total REE resource quantity. The approach included REE characterization of the representative samples, evaluation of fly-ash availability, and final determination estimated resource availability with regards to REE grade on a regional and national scale. This data represents the best available information and is based upon the assumptions that the power generating facility where the fly-ash was obtained will use the same coal sources (actual mines were identified), the coal materials will have relatively consistent REE concentrations, and the REE extraction process developed during this project can achieve 42% REE recovery (validated and confirmed). Calculations indicated that the estimated REE resource is approximately 175,000 tonnes with a current estimated value of $3,330MM. The proposed REE extraction and production process developed during this project used four fundamental steps; 1) fly-ash pretreatment to enhance REE extraction, 2) REE extraction by acid digestion, 3) REE separation/concentration by carbon adsorption and column chromatography, and 4) REE oxide production. Secondary processing steps to manage process residuals and additional processing techniques to produce value-added products were incorporated into the process during the project. These secondary steps were not only necessary to manage residuals, but also provided additional revenue streams that offset operational and capital expenditures. The process produces one value product stream (production of zeolite Na-P1), a solids waste stream, and one liquid stream that met RCRA discharge requirements. Based upon final design criteria and operational parameters, the proposed system could produce approximately 200 grams of REOs from 1-tonne of fly-ash, thereby representing a TREE+Y recovery of 42% (project target of > 25%). A detailed economic model was developed to evaluate both CAPEX and OPEX estimates for systems with varying capacities between 100 kg to 200 tonnes of fly ash processed per day. Using a standard system capacity of 10 tonne/day system, capital costs were estimated at $88/kg fly ash while operating costs were estimated at approximately $450/kg fly ash. This operating cost estimate includes a revenue of $495/tonne of fly ash processed from the value-added product produced from the system (zeolite Na-P1). Although operating cost savings due to zeolite production were significant, the capital + operating cost for a 10 tonne system was more expensive than the total dollar value of REEs present in the fly ash material. Specifically, the estimated cost per 1-tonne of fly ash treated is approximately $540 while the estimated value of REEs in the fly ash is $18-$20/tonne. This is an excessive difference showing that the proposed process is not economically feasible strictly on the basis of REE revenue compared to extraction costs. Although the current proposed system does not produce sufficient quantities of REEs or additional revenue sources to offset operational and capital costs, supplementary factors including US strategic concerns, commercial demands, and defense department requirements must be factored. At this time, the process developed during this project provides foundational information for future development of simple processes that require low capital investment and one that will extract a valuable quality and quantity of REE oxides from industrial waste.« less