USDOE Says Coal Ash Could End Aluminum Ore Imports

Energy Citations Database (ECD) - - Document #7089692

In a recent dispatch, now accessible via:

Iowa Mines Metals from Coal Ash for the USDOE | Research & Development; which centers on two US Patents for the recovery of valuable metals from Coal ash: "United States Patent 4,386,057 - Recovery of Iron Oxide from Coal Fly Ash" and "United States Patent 4,397,822 - Process for the Recovery of Alumina from Fly Ash";

we again confirmed that nearly all of the by-products of Coal combustion, just like Carbon Dioxide, as once again demonstrated in our report of:

US Navy Awarded September, 2011, CO2 Recycling Patent | Research & Development; concerning the recently-awarded: "US Patent 8,017,658 - Synthesis of Hydrocarbons via Catalytic Reduction of CO2; September 13, 2011; The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy; Abstract: A method of: introducing hydrogen and a feed gas containing at least 50 % carbon dioxide into a reactor containing a Fischer-Tropsch catalyst; and heating the hydrogen and carbon dioxide to a temperature of at least about 190 C. to produce hydrocarbons";

can be treated as valuable sources of raw materials from which can extract or synthesize a great many products that are essential to our domestic US economy; but, which products we are currently forced, at great cost to all of us as a nation, to import from often unfriendly, or at least uncooperative, foreign powers.

Herein, we wanted to continue following up on the fact that Coal power plant fly ash is, without doubt, a viable and economic source of, specifically, Aluminum ore.

As previously noted, Iron ore, too, can be extracted from Coal ash. And, as we will document in reports to follow, Coal ash can serve as the source for a number of other, uncommon but valuable, elements as well.

Concerning Aluminum, specifically, however, it might surprise you to learn, that, although we do have some Aluminum refineries in operation domestically, the only domestic, US-sourced material they process is the recycled metal itself.

All crude Aluminum ore currently being refined by domestic US Aluminum producers is imported.

We'll document that fact via some reference links to follow, but, first, we submit excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch demonstrating that the use of Coal ash as a source of Aluminum ore is economically viable.

Comment, and additional links, follow those excerpts from:

"Economic Metal Recovery from Fly Ash

Source: Symposium on Resource Recovery and Environmental Issues of Industrial Solid Wastes

Date of initial Publication: January, 1981; Conference Date: October, 1981

Authors: T.M. Gilliam, et. al.

Research Organization: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USDOE; TN

Abstract: Although most coal combustion ash produced in the United States is discarded as a waste, results are presented to show that fly ash can be an economical source of Al2O3, Fe2/O3, and possibly several other metals, many of which are presently being imported. Although several metal recovery processes were studied, only the two of greatest economic potential and widest applicability were given detailed economic evaluation; the direct acid leach of ash with HCl (a minimum treatment process) and a pressure digestion-acid leach (a maximum recovery process). Results show that both methods can remove from fly ash all metals that would otherwise be available for release to the environment after disposal and that a major portion of the leached metals can be separated in saleable form. Economic analyses indicate that the direct acid leach process is most attractive. A capital investment of $38.2 million (to process a specified amount) of ash per year (will generate) a net yearly cash flow of $15.2 million.

Additional economic benefits will result from the recovery of these metals through elimination of the higher ash disposal costs that may be required for fly ash containing trace metals. National benefits will also result from reduced importation of metals and ores."


First of all, a capital investment that results in a yearly cash flow of nearly 50% back to it is pretty darned good, no matter what you're talking about. But, as we documented for one instance in:

Coal TL vs. Hidden Oil Costs | Research & Development; concerning the National Defense Council Foundation Report (NDCF): "The Hidden Cost of Imported Oil";

there are extraordinary, but "hidden", costs, to our overall US domestic economy, "military and economic" penalties, as the NDCF puts it, costs that aren't necessarily reflected in the posted price of goods, that justify higher, even much higher, production costs for anything we can, alternatively, make for ourselves right here at home.

And, as the USDOE notes specifically, another of the "hidden" costs to our economy which would be avoided, or at least reduced, by extracting valuable metals from Coal ash, aside from those losses incurred through foreign exchange with Aluminum and other metal ore exporters, would be the "elimination", or at least the reduction, of Coal "ash disposal costs".

Keep in mind, too, that other metals in addition to Aluminum, can be extracted from Coal ash, as the Oak Ridge Laboratory again, intriguingly, confirms in:

Energy Citations Database (ECD) - - Document #6875639; concerning: "Resource Recovery from Coal Residues; 73rd Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; 1980; G. Jones, et. al.; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; USDOE; Abstract: Several processes are being developed to recover metals from coal combustion and conversion residues. Methods to obtain substantial amounts of aluminum, iron, and titanium from these wastes are presented. The primary purpose of our investigation is to find a process that is economically sound or one that at least will partially defray the costs of waste processing. A cursory look at the content of fly ash enables one to see the merits of recovery of these huge quantities of valuable resources. The major constituents of fly ash of most interest are aluminum (14.8%), iron (7.5%), and titanium (1.0%). If these major elements could be recovered from the fly ash produced in the United States (60 million tons/year), bauxite would not have to be imported, iron ore production could be increased, and titanium production could be doubled."


Wow. And, note the intriguing allusion above to "coal ... conversion". As we've previously reported, the mineral residues left behind by both direct and indirect processes for converting Coal into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons will be virtually, as we could almost intuit, the same, in terms of elemental composition, as the solid byproducts of actual Coal combustion.

And, if those "coal ... conversion residues" were, as the USDOE suggests, processed for the seemingly profitable recovery and production of Aluminum and other metals, then the effective and actual costs of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels produced from Coal would be, in concrete terms, reduced.

We must note in passing that the above report seems duplicated in a number of US Government databases, and is also accessible via the link: Energy Citations Database (ECD) - - Document #5521396.

Although we can't seem to find an overall summary of these issues from the Oak Ridge Laboratory, their scientists did continue to publish, in a fragmented way, the facts of the matter, as seen for another example in what appears to be more an internal USDOE report not publicly presented:

Energy Citations Database (ECD) - - Document #6038185; wherein is recorded: "Metals from Flyash; Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review, Volume 12:1; December, 2009; OSTI ID: 6038185; Author: R.M. Canon;

Abstract: Research underway to develop processes capable of recovering significant amounts of valuable materials from coal residues, principally fly ash, is reviewed. A second goal of the program is to produce a solid material that can be sold or disposed of at lower cost than can the untreated coal residue. Emphasis is placed on the Calsinter process, in which a sulfuric acid leach removes about 98% of the Al present and more than 90% of many other metals. The solids volume is reduced by about 60%."


Note that, in addition to Aluminum, "more than 90%" of other metals present can as well be extracted.

Those other metals include, as we will later document, some, aside from Iron, of strategic importance.

Note, too, the reduction in "solids volume", which would dramatically reduce the subsequent costs of solid  waste disposal. If, that is, we were to simply dispose of what was left of the Coal ash after all the metals were extratced.

As we started to document in:

Exxon Converts Coal Conversion Residues to Cement | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,260,421 - Cement Production from Coal Conversion Residues; 1981; Exxon Research and Engineering Company";

and, as we will even further document in reports to follow, as we sort through the rather astonishing volume of reference works we've uncovered attesting to the fact, there are some very productive things we can do with all Coal-use residuals, even after we've sucked the more profitable goodies, as in the above-cited "Resource Recovery from Coal Residues"; like "aluminum ..., iron ..., and titanium" out of 'em.

There is quite a lot more information available concerning the USDOE's assessment that Coal ash is a quite viable and practical source of Aluminum ore, but, we do want also to emphasize the genuine importance, in addition to the practicality, of utilizing Coal fly ash as such a source of Aluminum in this dispatch.

And, the potential significance, the importance, of such an abundant domestic source of Aluminum is indicated by our own United States Geologic Survey, in their report:

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/bauxite/mcs-2009-bauxi.pdf, wherein we can learn that virtually all of the Bauxite, the most accessible and easily processed natural ore of Aluminum, consumed and refined in the United States of America is currently imported. And, our own, domestic reserves of Bauxite are only, if you do the math with the numbers provided by the United States Geologic Survey, equal to, roughly, two percent of those owned by our friendly international competitor, China.

We seem to have no dedicated Bauxite mines currently active in the United States of America.

Perhaps of even more interest to the core of our readership, however, is, that, as documented in Table 1, on the assigned page 1141, in the following report:

http://www.anl.gov/PCS/acsfuel/preprint%20archive/Files/41_4_ORLANDO_08-96_1138.pdf; "Ash Utilization with Silica and Metals Recovery; Sol Shcherban; The International Association of Sciences, Inc., NYC, NY; Abstract: The annual generation of electric power in the United States results in production of over 43 million
tons of fly ash. Only about 22% of this amount is presently utilized. Neither of the used ash applications requires the recovery of metals and other valuable components. (But) there is another group of methods based on direct recovery of metals from ash";

the state of West Virginia, alone, now has recoverable Aluminum reserves contained in available Coal ash, in the form of Aluminum oxides, which is what Bauxite is, in some cases, converted into for refining in any case, that exceeds the Aluminum reserves contained in the natural Aluminum ores of all of Russia.

Now, if we were to start thinking of Aluminum as being a precious metal, and, strategically, it, in fact, is, then, metaphorically, we can start thinking of old King Coal's feces as being made of gold.

And, it is more than a little past time we did start to change our thinking about Coal, and about the way we use it.

Otherwise, some sly foxes are going to be snatching the golden eggs right out of our basket; and, they'll  keep on, just as they have been with natural petroleum as opposed to domestic Coal-derived liquids, stealing the money right out of our bank.