Addressing criticality for rare earth elements in petroleum refining: The key supply factors approach

Antonio Nieto, Kirsten Guelly, Andrew Kleit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The group of elements known as the rare earth elements (REEs) is comprised of the 15 lanthanides. REEs are used in a number of technologies including catalysts for automobiles and petroleum refining, magnets for wind turbines and defense technologies, and phosphors in lighting and computer and TV screens. REEs are actually quite abundant in the earth's crust. The elements are deemed "rare" because they are found in low concentrations and are difficult to extract economically. China holds 48% of the global REE reserves, and until 2012, production of REEs was almost exclusive to China. Over the past decade, China has been steadily decreasing its REE export quotas, reducing the supply of REEs available to the rest of the world. REEs are considered critical materials according to the National Science and Technology Council, which defines critical elements as those serving an essential function in the manufacture of a product, the absence of which would cause significant social consequence. Thus, it is extremely important for consumers of REEs to be aware of and understand the risks facing the supply REEs, as awareness is the first and most important step in developing strategies to mitigate risk. This report presents a mechanism for identifying the risks present in a supply-demand scenario and determining the criticality of an individual rare earth element under specific circumstances.In "A brief examination of supply and demand in REEs" section we briefly discuss the supply and demand for REEs. "REEs in petroleum refining" section examines the importance of REEs in fluid catalytic Cracking, the largest domestic U.S. use of REEs. "Determining REE criticality: The key supply risk methodology" section presents our key supply factor methodology of addressing the criticality of REEs. In "Scenario analysis" section we apply our methodology to three different possible scenarios affecting U.S. REE markets. "Example of criticality index for cerium considering the increased domestic supply scenario" section contains the results we derive from our methodology. Our conclusions are in "Criticality indexes: Results" section.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-503
Number of pages8
JournalResources Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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