FY19 WVWRI & USGS 104b Request for Proposals

Written by mkruger on . Posted in Funding, News, Press Release

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WV Water Research Institute releases Request for Proposals

The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) is requesting proposals for research expected to be funded March 1, 2019 through February 28, 2020. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior, will sponsor the research. Faculty from all West Virginia colleges and universities are encouraged to submit proposals. Funding selected proposals is dependent upon the availability of funds. It is expected that 3-5 projects will be funded in the range of $10,000 – $20,000 each. It is expected that approximately $70,000 will be available for new projects in 2019. Areas of Emphasis/Research Priorities for the State of West Virginia are listed below.

Water Metrics

• THM’s-factors controlling PSD exceedances; especially in older systems along the Ohio river; what compliance reports are reflecting
• Bromide sources-sources, mass balance in streams, factors controlling stream concentrations, impacts
• Policy options proven to protect water resources that could help WV
• Data to support policy options

Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources

• Watershed management to reduce flooding
• Project changes in storm hydrographs
• Baseflow indices at the watershed level
• Pooling water resources for use during drought
• Capacity and effects of water withdrawals
• Warmer water temperatures lead to longer retention times in lakes and reservoirs (and decreases in mine drainage) which increases productivity of algae blooms, nitrogen, and phosphorus even in winter in regions of the Potomac Basin and Highlands of WV
• Effects of climate change on water bodies during seasonal withdraws
• Models for predicting future changes based on potential uses and withdrawals; of special interest – Opekiska and Stonewall Jackson/Tygart reservoirs

Industrial Processes and Urban Sprawl

• Withdrawals/consumptions
• Treating and managing high TDS waters from mining sources

State Water Budget

• Access large, existing datasets such as those used to make annual reports to the State Legislature from sources such as WVDEP, USACE, USGS, WVDHHR, DNR and others.
• Identify small user data needs. Data Needs—Inventory and quantify small to medium water withdrawal users.
• Collaborate with agencies such as USGS, USACE, DNR, WVDEP, WVDHHR and others to develop new and build on existing models that reflect water inputs versus outputs, how much to release and when, what water quality looks like in the future based on climate change, seasonal impacts, and cumulative impacts on watersheds and aquatic life.
• Identify timing (seasonality) of water withdrawals; how much water is taken, when it is taken.
• Identify spatially water-sensitive watersheds (water quantity limited and biologically;
e. g. federally or state listed ETC species) in the state.
• Use data such as TNC e-flows data to develop thresholds for adverse effects on biological life and drinking water quality and cumulative effects assessment at varying withdrawals, i.e., 30% and 50%.
• Propose pilot study in small watershed with current water withdrawals such as from shale gas development to identify biological end points, impacts to recreational value from flow variations on trout, bass, etc. in specific systems to show cumulative effects.
• Refine use data (withdrawal and user) by watershed to provide a general inventory by watershed of cumulative withdrawals regularly updated as to what is being withdrawn and translating hydrologic withdrawals into biological consequences, drinking water consequences (quality/condition/capacity of drinking water plants), and ecological services consequences.

Proposals under this announcement must be submitted to the WVWRI in pdf format to: Tamara.Vandivort@mail.wvu.edu by 5:00 pm November 30, 2018. Please include USGS104b in the subject line.

Download and view the RFP

WRI Rare Earth Project in the News

Written by mkruger on . Posted in Media, News, Uncategorized

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The Associated Press story about WVU’s new Rare Earth Extraction Facility was picked up by U.S. News & World Report, The Miami Dispatch, The Belleville News-Democrat, The Centre Daily Times, The Modesto Bee and The Clay Center Dispatch.

CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958, paul.ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu

WVU opens new research facility to extract valuable rare earths from acid mine drainiage

Written by mkruger on . Posted in Media, News, Press Release

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Members of the WVU rare-earth research team from L to R: Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute; Chris Vass, facility operator; and Xingbo Liu, professor and associate chair of research, Statler College of Engineering andMembers of the WVU rare-earth research team from L to R: Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute; Chris Vass, facility operator; and Xingbo Liu, professor and associate chair of research, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, in the new Rare Earth Extraction Facility at the WVU Energy Institute/National Research Center for Coal and Energy. Photo by: M.G. Ellis

Story by Marissa Sura

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University researchers are opening a new facility to capture valuable materials from a novel source – acid mine drainage from coal mining – turning the unwanted waste into critical components used in today’s technology-driven society.

Through a collaborative research and development program with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, WVU is opening the Rare Earth Extraction Facility to bolster domestic supplies of rare earths, reduce the environmental impact of coal-mining operations, reduce production costs and increase efficiency for processing market-ready rare earths.

Additionally, the technology could create jobs, helping to revive economies that have been historically dependent on the coal industry.

Demonstration of WVU's rare earth element extraction equipment at commissioning ceremony. Photo by: M.G. EllisDemonstration of WVU’s rare earth element extraction equipment at commissioning ceremony.  Photo by: M.G. Ellis

“Research on rare-earth extraction is one way that our University is fulfilling its most important mission—which is the land grant mission—to advance the prosperity of the people of this state,” President Gordon Gee said.

Representatives from WVU, NETL, DOE, representatives from West Virginia’s congressional delegation and others gathered today (July 18) in the High Bay Research Lab at the WVU Energy Institute’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy on campus to tour the new Rare Earth Extraction Facility and mark the start of this exciting new phase of research.

Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute, hosted the event and conveyed statements of support from the members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

In addition, WVU welcomed keynote speaker Steven Winberg, DOE assistant secretary for fossil energy.

“It’s a pleasure to be in West Virginia because West Virginians understand what it really means to have an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” he said.

WVU is partnering with Rockwell Automation to facilitate market readiness through use of their sensor and control technologies in the new WVU facility.

Paul McRoberts, regional industry mining, metals and cement manager at Rockwell Automation, a 30-year veteran of the industry, said that this is one of the most exciting projects he has been a part of during his career and is excited to see the results of the new facility.

The facility is the researchers’ phase two project, worth $3.38 million, funded by NETL with substantial matching funding from WVU’s private sector partners. It follows on an earlier, phase one project, worth $937,000, to study acid mine drainage as feedstock for rare-earth extraction. The goal of the pilot facility is to test the technical and economic feasibility of scaling-up the technology to commercialize the separation and extraction process.

In addition, the team will be working to define a U.S.-based supply chain including the sludges created during acid mine drainage treatment and upstream to the acid-mine drainage source.

Neither rare nor earth

The name “rare earth elements” is a misnomer for important chemical elements that are actually neither rare nor earths.

A collection of 16 elements that hang off the bottom of the periodic table, they are moderately abundant but well dispersed in the Earth’s crust. They are identified as rare because it is unusual to find them in large concentrations.

The elements are all metals that carry very similar properties. In rare cases, they are found in deposits together. Unlike an element such as gold, natural rare earth deposits never occur as pure metals but are bonded in low-value minerals, making extraction challenging.

Conventional rare-earth recovery methods require an expensive, difficult and messy extraction process that generates large volumes of contaminated waste. China has been able to provide a low-cost supply of rare earths using these methods, and therefore, dominates the global market.

The conventional mining and extraction processes require mining ore from mineral deposits in rock, which is crushed into a powder, dissolved in powerful chemical solutions and filtered. The process is repeated multiple times to retrieve rare earth oxides. Additional processing and refining separate the oxides from their tight bonds and further groups them into light rare earths and heavy rare earths.

In usable form, these elements are necessary components of modern technologies. They are used in cellular phones, computers, televisions, magnets, batteries, catalytic converters, defense applications and many more segments of modern society.

Aaron Noble, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech, is a co-investigator on the project working with the WVU team.Aaron Noble, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech, is a co-investigator on the project working with the WVU team.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and principal investigator on the project, is an expert in acid mine drainage. He found that acid mine drainage, a byproduct of coal mining, “naturally” concentrates rare earths. Active coal mines, and in many cases state agencies, are required to treat the waste, which in turn, yields solids that are enriched in rare earth elements.

“Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines is the biggest industrial pollution source in Appalachian streams, and it turns out that these huge volumes of waste are essentially pre-processed and serve as good rare earth feedstock,” Ziemkiewicz said. “Coal contains all of the rare earth elements, but it has a substantial amount of the heavy rare earths that are particularly valuable.”

Studies show that the Appalachian basin could produce 800 tons of rare earth elements per year, approximately the amount the defense industry would need.

“Currently, acid-mine-drainage treatment is a liability, an environmental obligation,” Ziemkiewicz said. “But it could turn into a revenue stream, incentivizing treatment and creating economic opportunity for the region.”

Two-step process

Ziemkiewicz, Xingbo Liu, professor of mechanical engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Aaron Noble, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech, have designed the processing facility from the ground up using advanced separation technologies. Chris Vass, PE, is the operator of the new facility and a Summersville, West Virginia, native.

The researchers are using a two-step process to separate the rare earths from acid mine drainage: acid leaching and solvent extraction, which they call ALSX.

Researchers will dissolve the sludge in an acid. That solution will then be transferred to glass mixers and settlers that will make an emulsion that allows the oil phase and its extractant chemical to grab rare earths from the water, leaving the non-rare earth base metals like iron in the water

When that process is completed, the rare-earth-laden organic liquid enters another series of mixers and settlers that will strip the rare earths out as a concentrated solution and precipitate the rare earths as a solid, creating a concentrated rare earth oxide that can then be refined and further concentrated into pure rare earth metals to supply the metal refining industry.

The goal of the project is to produce three grams of rare earth concentrate per hour.

“For example, scandium, one of these rare earths, is worth about $4,500 per kilogram as an oxide, the form that it will leave this facility,” Anderson said. After refining, it would be worth $15,000 per kilogram.”

Unused materials will be returned to the acid mine drainage treatment plant’s disposal system, resulting in a negligible environmental footprint.

“This process uses an existing waste product that is abundant in our region,” Ziemkiewicz said. “It is also much easier to extract and requires much milder acids and has negligible waste materials when compared to conventional rare-earth recovery methods.”

A team, led by John Adams, assistant director of business operations at the WVU Energy Institute, is also defining the supply chain, moving upstream to the source and working with coal-industry partners. By producing a purified product at the mine, researchers could reduce transportation and waste handling costs.

“This could go a long way toward creating new economic opportunity for West Virginia and the region and make treating acid mine drainage a financial boon instead of a financial burden,” said Anderson.



CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958, paul.ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu

Call for Abstracts Deadline to be Extended

Written by mkruger on . Posted in Events, News

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The 2018 West Virginia State Water Conference will take place September 27-28, 2018 at Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown, WV.

The Conference Planning Committee is now accepting abstracts. To submit an abstract for an oral or poster presentation, complete the form below by July 31, 2018. The theme for the conference is “WATERExploring the Understanding, Significance, and Power of Life’s Critical Resource“. Researchers and educators from colleges and universities, state and federal agencies, private organizations, consulting firms, industry, and students are invited to submit abstracts for consideration for oral and poster presentation. This year’s conference will also have a strong environmental STEAM education component, so researchers and educators in the STEM/STEAM education field are encouraged to submit an abstract.


Abstracts must include sufficient content and information for adequate evaluation by the Conference Planning Committee. The Planning Committee reserves the right to accept, place in oral or poster session, or reject the paper. Abstracts are to be submitted via the link below. The abstract submission deadline has been extended to July 31, 2018.

By August 15, 2018, the Conference Planning Committee will inform submitting authors of their paper’s status. All accepted presenters will receive a discounted conference registration.


If you have questions or need assistance, please contact:
Megan Kruger
Conference Coordinator
(304) 293-7009