The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to examine the commercial feasibility of building a rare earth element facility that turns coal waste into battery materials.
The DOE has released a Request for Information (RFI) on the design, construction and operation of a new facility for the full-scale extraction of rare earth element (REE) and critical minerals (CM) and separation refinery using “unconventional resources”.
The RFI seeks information from industry, investors, developers, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and potentially affected communities including environmental justice, tribal, energy transition, and other communities.
The RFI solicits feedback on demonstration facility features, supply chain considerations, research and development needs, business models, and potential societal impacts and benefits.
It is hoped the facility will demonstrate a means of creating a strong domestic supply chain for the next generation of clean energy technologies.
Supported by $140 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the facility will apply next-generation technology to convert legacy fossil fuel waste into a domestic source of minerals needed for the US’ battery supply chain.
The information requested will help inform a site-selection process.
Building a battery supply chain
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said the investment to build the first-of-its kind critical minerals refinery meant the US government was moving ideas from the laboratory to the commercial stage and demonstrating how America could compete for the global supply chain.
Across the US, the legacy wastes left behind by coal mining and related activities all contain a variety of REEs and CMs which are essential materials used in technologies such as advanced aircraft, wind turbines, electric vehicles, semiconductors, and hydrogen fuel cells.
Currently, even when REEs are being mined within the US, they are shipped overseas for processing, before being sold back to the US in more expensive products.
This is solely a request for information and is not a Funding Opportunity Announcement. DOE is not accepting applications to this RFI.