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Research Papers: Fuel Combustion

Rare Earth Elements in North Dakota Lignite Coal and Lignite-Related Materials

[+] Author and Article Information
Daniel A. Laudal

Institute for Energy Studies,
University of North Dakota,
2844 Campus Road,
Stop 8153 Collaborative Energy
Complex Room 246,
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8153
e-mail: daniel.laudal@engr.und.edu

Steven A. Benson

Microbeam Technologies, Inc.,
4200 James Ray Drive, Ste 193,
Grand Forks, ND 58202
e-mail: sbenson@microbeam.com

Daniel Palo

Barr Engineering Company,
3128 14 Avenue E.,
Hibbing, MN 55746
e-mail: dpalo@barr.com

Raymond Shane Addleman

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
902 Battelle Blvd,
Richland, WA 99354
e-mail: Raymond.addleman@pnnl.gov

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received July 13, 2017; final manuscript received March 21, 2018; published online April 9, 2018. Editor: Hameed Metghalchi.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 140(6), 062205 (Apr 09, 2018) (9 pages) Paper No: JERT-17-1359; doi: 10.1115/1.4039738 History: Received July 13, 2017; Revised March 21, 2018

Rare earth elements (REE) are crucial materials in an incredible array of consumer goods, energy system components, and military defense applications. However, the global production and entire value chain for REE is dominated by China, with the U.S. currently 100% import reliant for these critical materials. Traditional mineral ores including those previously mined in the U.S., however, have several challenges. Chief among these is that the content of the most critical and valuable of the rare earths is deficient, making mining uneconomical. Further, the supply of these most critical rare earths is nearly 100% produced in China from a single resource that is only projected to last another 10–20 years. The U.S. currently considers the rare earths market an issue of national security. It is imperative that alternative domestic sources of rare earths be identified and methods developed to produce them. Recently, coal and coal byproducts have been identified as one of these promising alternative resources. This paper details the results of a study on characterization of North Dakota lignite and lignite-related feedstocks as an assessment of their feasibility for REE recovery. The abundance, distribution, and modes of occurrence of the REE in the samples collected were determined in this initial study to inform the selection of appropriate extraction and concentration methods to recover the REE. Materials investigated include the lignite coals, clay-rich sediments associated with the coal seams, and materials associated with a lignite beneficiation system and power plant. The results show that high REE levels exist both in lignite coals and associated sediments. The form of the REE in the clay materials is primarily as ultrafine mineral grains. In the lignite coals, approximately 80–95% of the rare earths content is organically associated, primarily as coordination complexes.

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Copyright © 2018 by ASME
Topics: Coal , Minerals , Sediments
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Figures

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Fig. 1

Classification of REE-rich coal by outlook for individual REE distribution in comparison with selected deposits of conventional types. 1—REE-rich coals; 2—carbonatite deposits; 3—hydrothermal deposits; 4—weathered crust elution-deposited (ion-adsorbed) deposits. Clusters of REE-rich coal distinguished by outlook for REE distribution (numerals in figure): I—unpromising, II—promising, and III—highly promising. Reproduced with permission from Seredin and Dai [12]. Copyright 2012 by Elsevier.

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Fig. 2

Rare earth elements content in the Falkirk Mine stratigraphic column (ash basis)

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Fig. 3

Upper continental crust-normalized REE distributions for selected Falkirk Mine lignite coal samples (ash basis)

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Fig. 4

Upper continental crust-normalized REE distributions for selected Falkirk Mine roof/floor sediments (ash basis)

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Fig. 5

Upper continental crust-normalized REE distributions for selected Harmon-Hanson lignite coal samples (dry coal basis)

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Fig. 6

Ratio of heavy to LREE for all samples as a function of sample ash content

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Fig. 7

Upper continental crust-normalized light (LREE), middle (MREE), and heavy (HREE) molecular weight REE for all samples (ash basis)

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Fig. 8

Float-sink density separation analysis. REE concentration and weight distribution as a function of specific gravity (dry coal basis). Harmon-Hanson sample 55-2.

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Fig. 9

Results of chemical fractionation tests for two North Dakota lignite coals. Top—Harmon-Hanson 54A; Bottom—Hagel B.

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