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U.S. Department of Energy Earmarks Millions for Coal Innovation Centers



By Donna Schmidt

June 30, 2020 - The US Department of Energy is looking for innovation and technology to produce value-added, carbon-based products from coal, and has set aside about US$122 million for the development of innovation centres to do so.

The federal agency said it would make the monies for the establishment of the centres available through a competitive process. Not only will the centres look at manufacturing carbon-based products, they will also examine new ways to extract and process rare earth elements (REEs) and other critical coal minerals.

The DoE said any of the  coal-rich basins of the US could host a centre, including the Appalachian basin (KY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV); the San Juan River-Raton-Black Mesa basin (AZ, CO, NM); the Illinois basin (KY, IL, IN, TN); the Williston basin (MT, ND, SD); the Powder River basin (MT, WY); the Uinta basin (CO, UT); the Green River-Wind River basin (CO, WY); the Gulf Coast-Black Warrior basin (AL, AR, LA, MS, TX); and Alaska. Together, 22 potential states are highlighted.

The agency is encouraging new and existing coalitions of private industry, academia, national laboratories, and state and local governments to compete for the establishment of the centres.

Once established, the public-private facilities will "research and incubate innovative mining, beneficiation, processing, and purification technologies that are environmentally sustainable," with each one also offering an educational foundation.

The funding for the innovation centres will be provided via the Carbon Ore, Rare Earths, and Critical Minerals (CORE-CM) Initiative, sponsored by the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy. Multiple funding opportunity announcements will be issued seeking input.

"It's vitally important that America develop a viable domestic supply of rare earth elements, critical minerals, and other valuable products from our vast coal resources," secretary of energy Dan Brouillette said.

"This effort moves us closer to that goal. Sustaining domestic coal production creates new economic opportunity for coal state economies and benefits the nation."