Published: August 30, 2023
By: Concentric Staff Writer
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is making $30 million available to increase domestic sourcing of critical minerals from coal-based resources used in clean energy and transportation technologies.
The funding (DE-FOA-0002619), allocated in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and announced Aug. 21, is to meet the need for critical minerals used in the production of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells, DOE said in a news release. The goal is to lower the cost of these technologies, meet growing demand, and reduce dependence on offshore supplies, DOE said.
“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is helping rebuild America’s manufacturing sector by enhancing our ability to produce the critical minerals necessary to develop clean energy technologies,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a written statement. “Thanks to these transformative investments, we are reducing our reliance on foreign supply chains while delivering high-quality jobs throughout the communities that have helped power the nation for generations.”
The U.S. currently imports more than 80 percent of such minerals from non-domestic suppliers, DOE said. In 2022, the U.S. imported more than half of its consumption of 43 of the 50 critical minerals identified by the U.S. Geological Survey and there was no domestic production of 14 critical minerals, DOE said.
The funding will be used to conduct proof-of-concept testing in laboratory or bench-scale facilities to research “economically viable, environmentally benign extraction, separation, and refining technologies.” Such minerals are used in clean energy, national defense, and commercial commodity products and equipment.
The funding opportunity is divided into two topic areas: advanced process development for production of rare earth metals and co-production of critical minerals and materials from coal-based resources; and production of critical minerals and materials, excluding rare earth minerals, from coal-based resources.
There is potential for advanced processes to produce individually separated, high-purity rare earth oxides and salts and high-purity single or binary rare earth metals at costs about 20 percent lower than currently available conventional separation and conversion technologies, the agency said. The materials will be produced in small-scale pilot facilities that extract and separate critical minerals from coal-based resources.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized appropriations to develop and assess advanced separation technologies for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and other critical minerals from coal and coal by-products and determine if there are any environmental or public health impacts from the recovery of these resources.
One goal of the program and other DOE-related activities is to help build a domestic supply chain of rare earth elements from a diverse list of resources and establish private investments to create the first domestic midstream processing capabilities for these resources in decades. The supply chain consists of mining, separation, refining, alloying, and manufacturing devices and components parts, DOE said. Forming such a supply chain is essential for domestic self-reliance in this area, the agency said.
Responses to the funding opportunity are due Oct. 20 Eastern Time, DOE said.
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