NETL-led initiative will help turn coal-dependent regions into clean energy resources

NETL-led initiative will help turn coal-dependent regions into clean energy resources

August 25, 2021

A new clean energy initiative led by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) aims to catalyze economic growth and job creation in regions that have historically depended on the coal industry. The NETL-led Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals (CORE-CM) initiative will enlist those communities to secure a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs) and critical minerals (CMs), which are crucial to the manufacture of clean energy technologies that will help decarbonize the energy sector.

The CORE-CM initiative is one of the ways NETL is helping ensure that the energy communities that have powered the nation for nearly a century will not be left behind in the transition to clean energy. Instead, these same communities will now lead the United States into this new era by using their abundant carbon ore resources to produce the REEs and CMs needed to build wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, magnets and more. Facing persistent shortages in the domestic supplies of these materials, the U.S. has been forced to import them.

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that 13 projects in traditionally carbon ore-producing communities across the country were awarded a total of $19 million for research and development producing REEs and CMs from U.S. basins. Producing these critical materials domestically will alleviate the need to rely on imported materials and minimize the potential vulnerability of supply disruptions.

“These 13 coalition teams of private industry, university, and state, local, and federal government personnel are looking at 13 basins in more than 20 states,” said NETL’s Federal Project Manager Chuck Miller, who manages three of the projects. “Many of these regions have been hard hit by declining demand for coal for power production. DOE is searching for economic opportunity for these communities to use their abundant natural resources in a new industry with good paying jobs.”

The CORE-CM Initiative also aligns with recommendations made by the White House Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which identified next steps in an Initial Report to the President including partnering with local communities to ensure that the shift to a clean energy economy creates good-paying union jobs, spurs economic revitalization and supports workers. NETL Director Brian J. Anderson leads the IWG, further strengthening NETL’s commitment to realizing these goals.

“The CORE-CM Initiative has the potential to have a twofold improvement to our nation,” Miller said. “By producing REE and CM domestically, we are strengthening our national economy and security while ensuring next-generation clean energy technologies will flourish. At the same time, when we find a new economic use for a resource that has been central to regional economies for so long, it can help another generation of workers to support their families and local economies.”

The following recipients plan to advance the extraction and recovery of REEs and CMs in the following basins:

Pennsylvania State University: Appalachian Basin (North) — Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Appalachian Basin (Central) — Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation: Appalachian Basin (South) — Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology: San Juan River-Raton Basin — Colorado and New Mexico.

Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois: Illinois Basin — Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee.

University of North Dakota: Williston Basin — Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

University of Wyoming: Powder River Basin — Montana and Wyoming.

University of Utah: Uinta River Basin — Colorado and Utah.

University of Wyoming: Green River–Wind River Basin — Colorado and Wyoming.

The University of Texas at Austin: Gulf Coast Basin — Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

University of Alaska Fairbanks: Alaska Basin — Alaska.

University of Kansas Center for Research Inc.: Cherokee–Forest City Basin — Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation.

West Virginia University Research Corporation: Mid-Appalachian Basin — southwest Pennsylvania, West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.

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