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U.S. Energy department invests $3 million in UW in carbon use, rare earths research


CASPER, Wyo — The University of Wyoming announced Friday that it will receive nearly $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research focused on “expanding and transforming the use of coal to produce coal-based products using carbon ore, rare earth elements and critical minerals.”

“The projects will play a critical role in advancing the directive set forth by Governor Mark Gordon to strive toward net-negative carbon emissions,” UW said.

Gordon has joined other states in lobbying Congress for funds to promote programs for carbon dioxide capture, transport, utilization, and storage. He also signed legislation this session expanding the Wyoming Energy Authority’s ability to finance  rare earths, geothermal and hydro electric energy development. 

Gordon praised the news of the DOE’s investment on Twitter Friday.

UW said the two projects submitted by UW’s School of Energy Resources (SER) Center for Economic Geology Research are  among 13 that were selected by the DOE nationwide in its $19 million total investment in the technologies.

The funds will cover research in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana and the Greater Green River and Wind River basins (GGRB-WRB) of Wyoming and Colorado.

The production of rare earth elements and critical minerals “is vital for use in electronics, magnets, batteries, phosphors for lighting,” UW said, with applications in national security and clean energy production — including the manufacturing of wind turbines.

“The U.S. has been heavily reliant on imports of REEs from China, which has dominated the global market,” UW said. “As the demand for REEs has been on the rise, the U.S. has engaged in finding alternative domestic sources.”

The feasibility of recovering REEs from coal-based resources has been expanded through efforts led by the DOE and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, UW added.

 The state of Wyoming, and particularly the PRB and GGRB-WRB, are well positioned to support carbon ore, REE and CM research.

“I couldn’t be more excited for these projects,” said CEGR Director Scott Quillinan. “Wyoming, Colorado and Montana have vast natural resources, and we are just beginning to learn the full potential of REE and CM resources associated with coal seams. It is interesting even though the two projects overlap much of Wyoming, the rare earth element and critical mineral resources located in each of the basins are very different. These projects will lay the framework for new industries in each of these basins.”