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Title: Characterization of Rare Earth Element Minerals in Coal Utilization Byproducts

Abstract

The United States currently produces over 100 million tons of coal utilization byproducts (CUB) per year in the form of fly ash, bottom ash, slag, and flue gas (American Coal Ash Association (ACCA), 2015). But this “waste material” also contains potentially useful levels of rare earth elements (REE). Rare earth elements are crucial for many existing and emerging technologies, but the U.S. lacks a domestic, sustainable REE source. Our project explored the possibility of developing a supply of REEs for U.S. technologies by extracting REEs from CUBs. This work offers the potential to reduce our dependence on other countries for supply of these critical elements (NETL, REE 2016 Project Portfolio). Geologic and diagenetic history, industrial preparation methods, and the specific combustion process all play major roles in the composition of CUB. During combustion, inorganic mineral phases of coal particles are fluidized at temperatures higher than 1400oC, so inorganic mineral materials are oxidized, fused, disintegrated, or agglomerated into larger spherical and amorphous (non-crystalline) particles. The original mineralogy of the coal-containing rock and heating/cooling of the material significantly affects the composition and morphology of the particles in the combustion byproduct (Kutchko and Kim, 2006). Thus, different types of coal/refuse/ash must be characterizedmore » to better understand mineral evolution during the combustion process. Our research focused on developing a working model to address how REE minerals behave during the combustion process: this research should help determine the most effective engineering methods for extracting REEs from CUBs. We used multimodal imaging and image processing techniques to characterize six rock and ash samples from different coal power plants with respect to morphology, grain size, presence of mineral phases, and elemental composition. The results of these characterization activities provided thresholds for realizing the occurrence of REE mineral phases in CUB and allowed us to calculate structural and volumetric estimates of REE. Collectively, the rock and coal ash samples contained minerals such as quartz, kaolinite, muscovite/illite, iron oxide (as hematite or magnetite), mullite, and clinochlore. Trace minerals included pyrite, zircon, siderite, rutile, diopside, foresterite, gypsum, and barite. We identified REE phosphate minerals monazite (Ce,La,Nd,Th)(PO 4,SiO 4), xenotime (YPO 4,SiO 4), and apatite (Ca 5(PO 4) 3(F,Cl,OH) via SEM and electron microprobe analysis: these materials generally occurred as 1-10 μm-long crystals in the rock and ash samples. As has been shown in other studies, amorphous material-aluminosilicate glass or iron oxyhydroxide-are the major components of coal fly and bottom ash. Trace amounts of amorphous calcium oxide and mixed element (e.g., Al-Si-Ca-Fe) slag are also present. Quartz, mullite, hematite, and magnetite are the crystalline phases present. We found that REEs are present as monomineralic grains dispersed within the ash, as well as fused to or encapsulated by amorphous aluminosilicate glass particles. Monazite and xenotime have relatively high melting points (>1800 °C) compared to typical combustion temperatures; our observations indicate that the REE-phosphates, which presumably contribute a large percentage of REE to the bulk ash REE pool, as measured by mass spectroscopy, are largely unaltered by the combustion. Our study shows that conventional coal combustion processes sequester REE minerals into aluminosilicate glass phases, which presents a new engineering challenge for extracting REE from coal ash. The characterization work summarized in this report provides a semi-quantitative assessments of REE in coal-containing rock and CUB. The data we obtained from 2- and 3-D imaging, elemental mapping, volumetric estimates, and advanced high-resolution pixel classification successfully identified the different mineral phases present in CUB. Further, our characterization results can guide techniques for extracting REEs from CUB, or other geologic and engineered materials. Whilst, interpretations will inform future REE separation and extraction techniques and technologies practical for commercial utilization of combustion byproducts generated by power plants.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [2]
  1. Oak Ridge Inst. for Science and Education (ORISE), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. National Energy Technology Lab. (NETL), Albany, OR (United States). Research Innovation Center
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Energy Technology Lab. (NETL), Pittsburgh, PA, and Morgantown, WV (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE)
OSTI Identifier:
1419423
Report Number(s):
NETL-TRS-20972
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
01 COAL, LIGNITE, AND PEAT

Citation Formats

Montross, Scott N., Verba, Circe A., and Collins, Keith. Characterization of Rare Earth Element Minerals in Coal Utilization Byproducts. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1419423.
Montross, Scott N., Verba, Circe A., & Collins, Keith. Characterization of Rare Earth Element Minerals in Coal Utilization Byproducts. United States. doi:10.2172/1419423.
Montross, Scott N., Verba, Circe A., and Collins, Keith. Mon . "Characterization of Rare Earth Element Minerals in Coal Utilization Byproducts". United States. doi:10.2172/1419423. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1419423.
@article{osti_1419423,
title = {Characterization of Rare Earth Element Minerals in Coal Utilization Byproducts},
author = {Montross, Scott N. and Verba, Circe A. and Collins, Keith},
abstractNote = {The United States currently produces over 100 million tons of coal utilization byproducts (CUB) per year in the form of fly ash, bottom ash, slag, and flue gas (American Coal Ash Association (ACCA), 2015). But this “waste material” also contains potentially useful levels of rare earth elements (REE). Rare earth elements are crucial for many existing and emerging technologies, but the U.S. lacks a domestic, sustainable REE source. Our project explored the possibility of developing a supply of REEs for U.S. technologies by extracting REEs from CUBs. This work offers the potential to reduce our dependence on other countries for supply of these critical elements (NETL, REE 2016 Project Portfolio). Geologic and diagenetic history, industrial preparation methods, and the specific combustion process all play major roles in the composition of CUB. During combustion, inorganic mineral phases of coal particles are fluidized at temperatures higher than 1400oC, so inorganic mineral materials are oxidized, fused, disintegrated, or agglomerated into larger spherical and amorphous (non-crystalline) particles. The original mineralogy of the coal-containing rock and heating/cooling of the material significantly affects the composition and morphology of the particles in the combustion byproduct (Kutchko and Kim, 2006). Thus, different types of coal/refuse/ash must be characterized to better understand mineral evolution during the combustion process. Our research focused on developing a working model to address how REE minerals behave during the combustion process: this research should help determine the most effective engineering methods for extracting REEs from CUBs. We used multimodal imaging and image processing techniques to characterize six rock and ash samples from different coal power plants with respect to morphology, grain size, presence of mineral phases, and elemental composition. The results of these characterization activities provided thresholds for realizing the occurrence of REE mineral phases in CUB and allowed us to calculate structural and volumetric estimates of REE. Collectively, the rock and coal ash samples contained minerals such as quartz, kaolinite, muscovite/illite, iron oxide (as hematite or magnetite), mullite, and clinochlore. Trace minerals included pyrite, zircon, siderite, rutile, diopside, foresterite, gypsum, and barite. We identified REE phosphate minerals monazite (Ce,La,Nd,Th)(PO4,SiO4), xenotime (YPO4,SiO4), and apatite (Ca5(PO4)3(F,Cl,OH) via SEM and electron microprobe analysis: these materials generally occurred as 1-10 μm-long crystals in the rock and ash samples. As has been shown in other studies, amorphous material-aluminosilicate glass or iron oxyhydroxide-are the major components of coal fly and bottom ash. Trace amounts of amorphous calcium oxide and mixed element (e.g., Al-Si-Ca-Fe) slag are also present. Quartz, mullite, hematite, and magnetite are the crystalline phases present. We found that REEs are present as monomineralic grains dispersed within the ash, as well as fused to or encapsulated by amorphous aluminosilicate glass particles. Monazite and xenotime have relatively high melting points (>1800 °C) compared to typical combustion temperatures; our observations indicate that the REE-phosphates, which presumably contribute a large percentage of REE to the bulk ash REE pool, as measured by mass spectroscopy, are largely unaltered by the combustion. Our study shows that conventional coal combustion processes sequester REE minerals into aluminosilicate glass phases, which presents a new engineering challenge for extracting REE from coal ash. The characterization work summarized in this report provides a semi-quantitative assessments of REE in coal-containing rock and CUB. The data we obtained from 2- and 3-D imaging, elemental mapping, volumetric estimates, and advanced high-resolution pixel classification successfully identified the different mineral phases present in CUB. Further, our characterization results can guide techniques for extracting REEs from CUB, or other geologic and engineered materials. Whilst, interpretations will inform future REE separation and extraction techniques and technologies practical for commercial utilization of combustion byproducts generated by power plants.},
doi = {10.2172/1419423},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jul 17 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Mon Jul 17 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

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