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Battelle, Rare Earth Salts Collaborate on NETL Project


Battelle is teaming up with Rare Earth Salts (RES) on a potentially groundbreaking project for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The project, Recovery of High Purity Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from Coal Ash via a Novel Separations Process, will produce valuable Rare Earth Oxides from coal fly ash, converting them into the high purities necessary for a saleable product.

The two organizations will advance the development of REE processing by combining RES’s novel separation and purification process and Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process. Under this project, they plan to show they can generate environmentally benign and economically sustainable REE products from domestic coal ash sources at purities above 90%. The total funding for the project is about $875,000.

Battelle’s Acid Digestion Process selectively leaches REE from the coal fly ash. What is unique is that the chemicals are almost entirely recycled instead of being lost to leaching during the process. This approach dramatically reduces costs, allows the exclusion of key contaminants, and provides a concentrated source of REEs along with other co-products, the company said.

“This is an important project to prove the viability of this approach,” said Rick Peterson, Battelle research scientist. “The need to recover Rare Earth Elements in the United States is of national importance, since so much of the capacity to produce these critical materials lies outside the U.S.”

RES’ proprietary separation technology is cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. The company recycles its manufacturing inputs so virtually no waste is created, making RES the most sustainable producer of rare earth oxides globally, RES said. RES began commercial production of rare earth oxides at its Nebraska-based facility earlier this year with a standard purity of 99.9%.

“Our technology positions us to be a primary producer of consistent, low-cost, rare earth oxides to Western economies,” said Cameron Davies, CEO of RES. “As we seek additional sources of domestic rare earth feedstock, coal fly ash presents a promising opportunity.”