Rockwell Automation Collaborates with West Virginia University to Help Build a Rare Earth Research Facility

  Rockwell Automation Cooperates with West Virginia University at the Opening of a Rare Earth Research Facility

1. August 2018 – Researchers at West Virginia University open a new facility to extract valuable materials from a novel source – acid pit mining from coal mining – transform unwanted waste into critical components used in today's technology-driven society.

Through a joint research and development program with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, WVU is launching the Rare Earth Extraction Facility to strengthen domestic Rare Earth resources, reduce the environmental impact of coal mining operations, reduce production costs and increase production Efficiency in Processing Marketable Rare Earths

In addition, technology could create jobs and contribute to the revival of the economy in the past depending on the coal industry.

"Research on rare earth extraction is a way to o your university is fulfilling its main mission – the Land Grant Mission – to promote the prosperity of the people of this state," said President Gordon Gee.

Representatives of WVU, NETL, DOE, representatives of the West Virginia Congressional delegation and others gathered today (July 18) at the High Bay Research Lab of the National Coal and Energy Research Center of the WVU Energy Institute on campus to host the new To visit the rare earth extraction plant and mark the beginning of this exciting new research phase [19659003] Brian Andson, Director of the WVU Energy Institute, moderated the event and sent statements of support from members of the state congressional delegation including Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

WVU Collaborates with Rockwell Automation to Facilitate Market Maturity by Using Its Sensor and Control Technologies in the New WVU Facility.

Paul McRoberts, regional industry mining, metals and cement manager at Rockwell Automation, a 30-year industry veteran, said it was one of the most exciting projects he had been involved in during his career Results of the new facility.

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The facility is a $ 3.38 million Phase 2 project funded by NETL with substantial financial support from WVU private partners. It follows an earlier $ 937,000 Phase 1 project to investigate acid mine drainage as a resource for rare earth mining. The aim of the pilot plant is to test the technical and economic feasibility of the technology for the commercialization of the separation and extraction process.

In addition, the team will work to define a US-based supply chain including the sludge generated during the acid mine drainage treatment and upstream to the acid mine drainage source.

Neither rare nor earth

The name "rare earths" is a misnomer for important chemical elements that are neither rarity nor earth.

A collection of 16 elements hanging from the bottom of the periodic table, they are moderately abundant, but well distributed 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 have very similar properties. In rare cases they are found together in deposits. Unlike an element such as gold, natural rare earth deposits never exist as pure metals, but are bound in minerals of low value, making extraction difficult.

Conventional methods of rare earths require an expensive, difficult and messy extraction process involving large amounts of contaminated waste. China is able to use these methods to provide a cheap supply of rare earths and thereby dominate the world market.

Conventional mining and extraction processes require ore mining from mineral deposits in rock, which is crushed to a powder, dissolved in strong chemical solutions and filtered. The process is repeated several times to obtain rare earth oxides. Through additional processing and refining, the oxides are separated from their solid bonds and further refined into light rare earths and heavy rare earths.

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In usable form, these elements are a necessary component of modern technologies. They are used in mobile phones, computers, televisions, magnets, batteries, catalysts, defense applications, and many other segments of modern society.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and principal investigator of 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, government agencies have to treat the waste, which in turn produces solids enriched with rare earths.

"Acid mine drainage from disused mines is the largest source of industrial pollution in the Appalachian streams, and it turns out that these vast amounts of waste are essentially pre-processed and serve as good rare earths," Ziemkiewicz said. "Coal contains all the elements of the rare earths, but it has a considerable amount of heavy rare earths, which are especially valuable."

Studies show that the Appalachian basin could produce 800 tonnes of rare earths per year, which would be about the amount the defense industry would need.

"At present, acid mine drainage treatment is a commitment, an environmental obligation," said Ziemkiewicz. "But it could be turned into a source of income, boost treatment, and create economic opportunities for the region."

Two-Stage Process

Ziemkiewicz, Xingbo Liu, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Aaron Noble, Associate Professor of Mining and Mineral Engineering at Virginia Tech, have built the processing facility from the ground up with advanced separation technologies developed. Chris Vass, PE, is the operator of the new facility and a man born in Summersville, West Virginia.

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

The researchers will dissolve the sludge in an acid. This solution is then transferred to glass mixers and settlers, which form an emulsion that allows the oil phase and its extracting chemical to pack rare earths out of the water and leave the non-rare earth metals such as iron in the water

After completion of the process, the rare earth-loaded organic liquid enters another series of mixers and settlers, which precipitate the rare earths as a concentrated solution and precipitate the rare earths as a solid, producing a concentrated rare earth oxide, which may then be

target The project is producing three grams of rare earth concentrate per hour

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

Unused materials are returned to the acidic mine drainage system, resulting in a negligible ecological footprint.

" This process uses an existing waste product abundantly in our region, "Ziemkiewicz said." It's also much easier

A team, led by John Adams, deputy director of operations at the WVU Energy Institute, also defines the supply chain, moving upstream to the source and source, and extracting much less milder acids and waste Collaborating with coal industry partners, researchers were able to reduce transportation and waste costs by producing a purified product in the mine.

"This could greatly contribute to new economic opportunities for West Virginia and the Re Creating a gion and making the treatment of acid mines a financial boon is a financial burden, "Anderson said.

 Rockwell Automation Collaborates with West Virginia University to Help Build a Rare Earth Research Facility

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