energy transition materials

DOE grants Houston-area energy tech co. over $5M for rare earth elements study

A company headquartered in The Woodlands has secured funding to study the recovery of rare earth elements as they pertain to the energy transition. Photo via tetratec.com

The Woodlands-based Tetra Technologies, an energy technology and services company, has picked up nearly $5.4 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to study the recovery of rare earth elements and other critical minerals from coal byproducts in Pennsylvania.

The funding also will enable Tetra to explore converting coal byproducts, known as underclay, into clays that could be sold. In addition to the DOE funding, the company also secured about $1.3 million for a total of $6.7 million.

Publicly traded Tetra got the funding as part of a more than $17 million package aimed at designing and building facilities to produce rare earth elements, along with other critical minerals and materials, from coal resources. The Department of Energy (DOE) says these minerals and materials will go toward generating clean energy.

Rare earth elements can be derived from the country’s more than 250 billion tons of coal reserves, over 4 billion tons of waste coal, and about 2 billion tons of coal ash, according to DOE.

Clean energy fixtures like solar plants, wind farms, and electric vehicles generally require more minerals to build than their fossil-fuel-based counterparts, according to the International Energy Agency. For example, a typical electric car requires six times the mineral resources of a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant.

The American Geosciences Institute says rare earth elements, a set of 17 metallic elements, also are an essential component of many tech-dependent products. These include cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and radar and sonar systems.

China is the top country for production of rare earth elements, with the U.S. far behind at No. 2.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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