Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia Water Research Institute’
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory has selected West Virginia University to move forward with its program to extract valuable rare earth elements, vital to the technology industry, from coal mining by-products.
Phase two of the WVU project – which includes $3.38 million of federal and industry funding – will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of extracting rare earth elements from acid mine drainage, or AMD. The selection follows two earlier NETL awards to study AMD as a feedstock to bolster U.S. domestic supplies of rare earth elements.
Rare Earth Elements have significant value, being used in modern technologies such as cell phones, rechargeable batteries, DVDs, GPS equipment, medical equipment and various defense applications. Conventional rare earth recovery methods are difficult, expensive and generate large volumes of contaminated waste. Because of this, the U.S. imports nearly all of its rare earth needs from China.
WVU’s project, “Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine Drainage,” will develop a new, domestic source of rare earth elements that will be easily extracted, operate on already permitted sites and produce negligible, new waste materials. In fact, the process may emerge as a way for land owners to generate income from formerly mined properties.
“Mine drainage from abandoned mines is the biggest industrial pollution source in Appalachian streams,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of West Virginia Water Research Institute and principal investigator on the project.
“As a result, lots of streams that were once ecologically dead, such as the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers, are now valuable recreational fisheries.
“When NETL announced its interest in rare earth recovery it became clear that the mine drainage could be an attractive feedstock for rare earth production. Our research has since focused on finding ways to capture this rare earth resource while incentivizing mine drainage treatment. This project will be a perfect fit to WVU’s mission to create economic opportunity for West Virginians.”
Ziemkiewicz, along with co-investigators Dr. Xingbo Liu, professor of mechanical engineering from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU and Dr. Aaron Noble, associate professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering will install a small-scale, continuous extraction facility on the WVU campus.
“The economics of recovering rare earth elements from coal mine drainage appear favorable, and this project will give us the opportunity to develop and optimize the critical separation technologies that will enable commercial-scale production,” said Noble.
The research team will partner with Rockwell Automation to adapt their sensor and control technology and facilitate market readiness. Paul McRoberts and Pete Morell will represent Rockwell Automation on the project team. A global supplier of controls, the company will ensure the success of the project by providing solutions and support services to manage the complex components that will comprise the rare earth extraction process.
John Adams from the WVU Energy Institute will then develop a commercialization plan to move the technology into the marketplace.
CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia Water Research Institute
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The West Virginia Outdoor Learning Lab will introduce scouts to the world of environmental science, technology, engineering and math (E-STEM). The Lab will include a series of fun hands-on outdoor activities centered on the BSA.
Through the program, scouts will earn a patch while learning about ecology, biology, water science, wildlife and wetlands. To earn the patch, scouts must pick up a WVOLL activity book and complete four out of the eight activities over the course of the Jamboree. The scouts will use observational skills, critical thinking and modern technology to take measurements, enter data and plot simple graphs to see the results.
“Today’s scouts are computer-savvy and our program will integrate their existing skills with their interest in understanding natural processes. This, in turn, will be a gateway to pursuing higher education in the E-STEM fields and, perhaps careers,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University.
Over the past year, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences have worked with WVWRI staff and the BSA to install a network of research equipment to study the climate and ecological makeup of the Reserve. The research forms the basis of a unique interactive curriculum that engages the scouts through E-STEM activities.
The team includes Jim Anderson, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology, Richard Thomas, professor of biology, Dave Smaldone, associate professor of resource recreation and tourism and Eric Merriam, post-doctoral research assistant.
“We are really excited to showcase this project at the Jamboree,” said Andrew Stacy, WVOLL project manager.
“I think the scouts will enjoy the program we’ve put together. The activities are based outdoors and are fun, interactive and will challenge the scouts to apply themselves.”
The reserve is the BSA’s newest high-adventure camp and is adjacent to the New River Gorge National River and more than 13 miles of the property border the park, providing access to more than 70,000 acres of managed, Appalachian highlands wilderness beyond the summit property. Approximately, 40,000 scouts are expected to be on site for the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, which takes place July 19-28, with about 20,000 cycling through the site every two weeks during the remainder of the summer.
CONTACT: Andrew Stacy, West Virginia Water Research Institute
The coal industry’s future may have much more to do with building smartphones, wind turbines and missile defense radar than billowing smoke stacks and environmental finger pointing, say federal coal advisers and experts.
The direction of the industry is aimed at harvesting what are known as “rare earth elements,” for which the U.S. industry depends on China.
The 19 elements are key ingredients in building complex electronics used in smartphones, jets, defense applications, advanced wind turbines and renewable energy, not to mention light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
The bottom line is that the U.S. needs to diversify its supply of the minerals, and the coal industry is the nation’s best ticket to do that.
“To the extent that the administration is interested in and regards national defense as a strong national priority, I would think that they are very interested in securing a secure supply of rare earth elements that don’t rely on China,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia University’s water research director, who is at the forefront of transitioning the coal industry into a source of raw materials and mineral security.
The U.S. uses about 15,000 tons of rare earth elements every year, with about 800 tons of that going to the defense industry, he said. “And that’s for high-performance radars, sensors, magnets, some very specialized applications that [should] rely on a strategic reserve in this country.”
In 2016 alone, the U.S. imported more than one-half of its supply of 50 types of minerals, eight of which are identified as rare earth elements critical to the economy, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Of those 50 minerals, the U.S. was 100 percent dependent on imports for 20 of them, including all eight critical and rare earth minerals. New data released this year showed that rare earth mining was nonexistent in the U.S. in 2016, while China continued to expand its market and dominate the global supply chain.