Appalachian coal mine waste could provide key ingredients for clean energy

Written by Jim Pierobon, Southeast Energy News on . Posted in Media, News

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From left to right: Drs. Xingbo Liu, WVU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept., Aaron Noble, WVU Mining Engineering and Paul Ziemkiewicz, principal investigator
and WVWRI director.

Researchers at state universities in the Southeast are closing in on whether one of the region’s biggest liabilities – coal mine waste – might become a valuable asset by supplying rare earth elements needed for clean energy and other applications.

The answer lies in whether the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, working with federal energy laboratories, a few coal companies and large manufacturers, can identify ways and locations to economically extract and process rare earth elements from the waste streams left over from mining coal throughout Appalachia and Western Kentucky.

“We’re working with members of the coal industry and state agencies that are engaged in treating AMD (acid mine drainage) solids to sample their waste streams, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, the lead researcher who heads the West Virginia University’s (WVU) research with colleagues Xingbo Liu and Aaron Noble at its Water Research Institute in Morgantown.

The collaborative effort faces its first key milestone this summer when it completes the first of two phases under $7 million of federal funding, said Roe-Hoan Yoon, the lead researcher at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The first $1 million is to produce a report summarizing their research findings to date.

Phase two, budgeted at $6 million, is to design a mobile pilot processing plant that could move among several sites, may be at risk if Congress does not pass a budget for the current or next fiscal year, which begins October 1. Yoon estimated the cost to build such a pilot facility at about $20 million.

“When you look at the list of what (REEs) we import, where we import it from, and what it is used for, it quickly becomes clear that we have a very real problem on our hands,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday. “If we let this go unchecked, we will come to a day of reckoning … when we simply cannot acquire a mineral, or when the market for a mineral changes so dramatically, that entire industries are affected.”

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Ziemkiewicz analyzes data from untreated mine water used as a drinking source for Inside Appalachia

Written by Tracy Novak, NRCCE Communications on . Posted in Media, News

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Morgantown, W.Va. – As mining companies close and leave Appalachia, water systems in these company towns are often abandoned. Eight water systems in southern West Virginia are “intractable,” meaning the systems are no longer maintained and the water is no longer treated, leaving residents vulnerable. In Garwood (Wyoming County), water comes from an abandoned coal mine.

Inside Appalachia, a program on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, examined the question, “Is water from an abandoned coal mine fit to drink?” Reporter Anne Li asked Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, to comment on water testing results from coal mine water that feeds into Garwood’s derelict water system.

With the limited data provided, according to Ziemkiewicz, the worst containment in the water from 2000 to 2008 was coliform. This bacteria can be a sign of sewage contaminating the water supply. Data from 2008 to 2014 showed no signs of coliform, but because the water is still untreated, Garwood has been on a boil water advisory since 2015.

Hear more details on Inside Appalachia’s: “Coal’s Legacy in Appalachia: As Mining Companies Close, Water Systems Fail.” “Mine water as a drinking source” segment starts at 36.05. Ziemkiewicz’s comments at 37:01.

-NRCCE-

tn/2/20/17

WVU a Hotbed of Research Activity

Written by Janet Metzner, Legal Reporter, The Intelligencer on . Posted in Media, News

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Which Fracking Water To Watch

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director, West Virginia Water Research Institute, says the general public often worries about the wrong water in the fracking process.

The water that becomes contaminated is what’s removed from the well, he explained, citing research from the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory. It’s located along the Monongahela River in Morgantown, and its researchers are focused on improving production of natural gas and oil.

The university launched the four-acre lab in 2014, as a partnership with Northeast Natural Energy, the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, and The Ohio State University, according to a June 26, 2015, article in “WVU Today” magazine.

Basically, it’s the water coming out of the well, called end-of-cycle water, that is contaminated, not the water going into the wells, Ziemkiewicz said. And the big issue is “what to do with the water coming out,” he said.

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WVU helps countries better understand responsible development, management and impact of unconventional gas resources

Written by WVU News on . Posted in Media, News

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Recognizing the depth and breadth of its knowledge about unconventional natural gas resources, the United States Department of State has called on West Virginia University to share that expertise with the world.

With increasing interest in natural gas development both in the U.S. and worldwide, the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources has reached a cooperative agreement with WVU to create the International Forum on Unconventional Gas Sustainability and the Environment, or INFUSE, a unique technical program dedicated to increasing other countries’ understanding of best practices for unconventional gas resource development through a mix of classroom and in the field activities.

Housed within the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and in collaboration with the WVU Energy Institute, INFUSE uses scientific, technical, policy and environmental lessons that the University has learned through its decades of research to inform international delegations on how proper development and management can reduce environmental risks and lead to sustainable resource development.

“The INFUSE program demonstrates WVU’s leadership and expertise on this critical, global energy topic,” says Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute. “We have seen the widespread development of unconventional oil and gas production completely change the energy landscape of the United States and seen the best industry practices evolve over the past decade.

“WVU researchers have continually been on the forefront of developing these technologies and policy innovations; thus, we are uniquely positioned to educate others in the issues and best practices in unconventional hydrocarbon development,” Anderson said.

The program draws upon additional WVU expertise from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the College of Law, School of Public Health, Regional Research Institute and the West Virginia Water Research Institute. Topics include policies, data, environment, safety, health, water usage, emissions, outreach and engagement with communities, workforce development, risks and rewards, policies and more. To date, four countries have participated (Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, Lithuania). Additional countries will be visiting WVU beginning this fall.

WVU researchers from multiple areas of study have been examining all aspects of shale gas development since production began a decade ago. The most recent interdisciplinary project was the formation of the nation’s first integrated research initiative on shale gas drilling, completion and production.

The Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory, known as MSEEL, is a partnership with The Ohio State University, Northeast Natural Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Scientists, engineers, ecologists, public health professionals, social scientists and more from eight units across the University, in addition to partnering organizations, are collecting data in real time from a science well and two production wells, as well as the surrounding site, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire life cycle – from drilling to completion to production.

Tim Carr, professor in the department of geology and geography and principal investigator of MSEEL, is an enthusiastic proponent of INFUSE. “MSEEL and other WVU research efforts on unconventional resources in the Appalachian basin and around the world provides a solid foundation for the short courses, site visits, and briefings that comprise our global outreach efforts.”

-WVU-

ms/07/28/16

CONTACT: Brian Anderson, WVU Energy Institute
304.293.6631, Brian.Anderson@mail.wvu.edu
or
Tim Carr, Department of Geology and Geography
304.293.9660, tim.carr@mail.wvu.edu