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Presented photo: A drag worker works at a lignite mine in North Dakota. A recent study attributed 13,000 jobs in the state directly or indirectly related to the lignite industry.

New opportunities in rare earth minerals and carbon capture have the potential to add value to North Dakota’s bituminous coal reserves, according to the North Dakota Energy Board.

Over the past two years, lignite has begun to reach emerging markets, such as critical minerals and rare earth elements, because of the need for local input into technology markets, said Jason Bohrer, president and CEO of the council.

We believe it opens doors for the coal industry that have not been opened before. We believe it provides opportunities for the state of North Dakota to have industries with not only regional impact but global impact, because it will provide new sources of items and materials that can be fed into this multi-trillion dollar industry,” Bohrer said at a media event the council hosted last winter.

Researchers are also interested in germanium for lenses and optical fibers, gallium for electronic circuits, semiconductors and medicines, graphene and graphite for batteries and carbon in structural materials or frames, said Mike Holmes, executive vice president of research and development at the Lignite Research Council.

He said the projections are for the critical elements to be an opportunity of more than $14 billion.

“We need a safe local supplier for this because, right now, we’re import-dependent on these chemical components that are needed for all those different industries,” said Holmes. “Lignite in North Dakota shows that we have many important rare earth elements and important minerals that we need and can be removed fairly easily with only a mild solvent.”

He said studies are underway to show the economics, identify the richest coal seams and discover the most profitable ones. At the same time, the coal industry continues to investigate opportunities for carbon capture.

“Carbon capture is one of our most important projects that we have worked on over the past 20 years,” Bohrer said. “We are about to start putting steel on the ground on some of these billion dollar projects that will completely change the trajectory of coal-fired electrification in the world. We have, in the planning stages, what will become the world’s first and second largest carbon capture project at the Milton R plant Young and Coal Creek Station”.

Young’s station is located near Center and Coal Creek between Underwood and Washburn.

Holmes said Energy Rainbow, the Center for Energy and Environmental Research at Grand Forks and others involved in the Coal Creek project have completed preliminary engineering and design work and are working on a more detailed analysis under the Sustainable Clean Energy Commission.

He noted that the country has the potential to store 76 billion to 252 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in its geology. A ton equals 2204.6 pounds.

One option for sequestration is to use carbon dioxide to enhance oil recovery.

“The data shows that we can use up to 358 million tons of carbon dioxide — more than is available from our sources — to produce more than 1 billion barrels of extra oil.” said Holmes. “If we crack the code on the Bakken, it has a potential utility benefit of 1 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide to produce an additional 3 to 7 billion barrels of additional oil.”

A North Dakota State University study showed that more than 13,000 jobs are directly and indirectly related to the lignite industry. Using CO2 from just one plant to improve oil recovery while storing the other CO2 would create as many as 8,000 jobs, according to council data. If the carbon dioxide from all five North Dakota oil recovery plants were used, the impact would amount to 14,000 more jobs and $5 billion in annual economic activity.

Subsidized renewables and massive amounts of natural gas flooding the market have hurt the coal industry, Bohrer said, which has fallen from its position as the single largest source of electricity in the United States, and now ranks second only to natural gas.

To maintain a place in the market, the coal industry emphasizes its reliability, flexibility and affordability as it works to attract capital investment into new projects.

“We believe we are doing the best job of any natural resource industry in the world in terms of environmental sustainability and carrying out best practices. And we are trying to make sure that the capital markets understand that,” Bohrer said.

UND receives funds to study rare earth minerals

GRAND FORKS – The US Department of Energy announced on April 4 that $16 million of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act has been awarded to support projects in North Dakota and Kentucky that could lead to a unique rare earth element and critical mineral. Extraction and separation strainer.

The Department of Energy has awarded the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks $8 million to complete a study to recover and purify rare earth elements and critical metals from tailings from North Dakota’s lignite mines. The project aims to develop technologies that can enable an environmentally sensitive process at a competitive cost to produce rare earth and critical minerals from domestic coal waste.

“Together with its industry partners and the US Department of Energy, the University of North Dakota is at the forefront of our energy future,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. This award is based on the group’s efforts to search, find, and mine rare earth elements and minerals in North Dakota. The importance of developing this domestic supply chain to national security and energy security cannot be overstated.”

West Virginia University in Morgantown has received $8 million to complete a study to produce rare earth elements and critical metals using acid mine drainage and primary metal tailings while addressing pollution at source. Intermediate products will be processed into oxides, salts or high purity metals according to specific market needs.

Over the course of approximately 15 months, these two detailed engineering and cost studies will identify risks and costs and solidify plans for developing economically viable operations for the extraction, separation and production of rare earth elements and critical metals. After completion of the studies and technical review period, these projects will have the opportunity to apply for Phase II funding to build and operate the Demonstration Scope Facility.

The United States imports more than 80% of rare earth elements and minerals important for the production of clean energy technologies and other indispensable products, such as smartphones, computers, and medical equipment.

Across the country, there are billions of tons of coal waste and ash, mine tailings, acid mine drainage, and runoff water. These waste streams from mining, energy production, and related activities contain a variety of valuable rare earth elements and other critical minerals that can be produced and used to build clean energy technologies, according to the Department of Energy.

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