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2016 | Book

Innovative Process Development in Metallurgical Industry

Concept to Commission

Editors: Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan, Raja Roy, V. Ramachandran

Publisher: Springer International Publishing


About this book

This book describes the phases for innovative metallurgical process development, from concept to commercialization. Key features of the book include:

• Need for process innovation

• Selection and optimization of process steps

• Determination of the commercial feasibility of a process including engineering and equipment selection

• Determination of the environmental footprint of a process

• Case-study examples of innovative process development

Table of Contents

1. The Need for Process Innovation
The Mining and Metallurgical Industry needs to be innovative in order to stay sustainable. There is a pressing need for innovative process development, as ore grades are becoming lower, processing costs are increasing, and environmental regulations are tightening. General steps in the development of an innovative process include idea generation, problem-solving, and implementation. Continuous investment in Research and Development is needed to develop a culture for innovation.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Raja Roy, Ram Ramachandran

Separation Processes and Process Selection

2. Physical Processing: Innovations in Mineral Processing
This chapter provides an overview of various innovations and technology developments in mineral processing that have shaped the current mining industry. A glimpse of the present and future challenges in mining are also presented. A holistic approach to problem solving involving various stakeholders is gaining momentum and this has been reflected in this chapter. Various developments that are being pursed in mineral processing focusing on a change in the existing mining paradigm are also presented in this chapter.
B. K. Gorain
3. Thermal Processing: Pyrometallurgy—Non-ferrous
Innovations in Non-ferrous Pyrometallurgical Processing: Case Study of the Peirce–Smith Converter
Metals and metallurgy have played a pivotal role in the development of human civilization. The major periods in history are marked by such names as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age to reflect the importance of metals. The history of pyrometallurgy can be traced back at least 6000 years to the simple copper smelters of present-day Israel. First metals to be used by mankind were copper, silver and gold due to their abundance in the native metallic form during the beginning of civilization. Most of the world’s copper and nickel are currently produced by smelting sulphide concentrates. Resulting matte is then converted into metal. Peirce–Smith converting is currently used in the copper, nickel and platinum industries to remove iron and sulphur from a molten matte phase. As a result of the relentless innovation and perseverance, Peirce–Smith converter is now very efficient and performs in an environmentally friendly way at the world’s best smelters.
Nathan M. Stubina
4. Thermal Processing: Pyrometallurgy—Ferrous
Some Perspectives on the Development of Converter Steelmaking Within Japan
The steel industry is a huge equipment-based organization and the period from invention to industrialization usually takes a long time. In this review, key issues that contributed to the development of converter vessels for steel production are described together with the scientific, technological, and engineering breakthroughs that were involved. Also, discussed are aspects pertaining to cost, productivity, and steel quality as well as the constraints imposed by resources and socioeconomic demands of the steel market. After the commissioning, construction, and start up of a new facility, the development of strategies for effective energy utilization and environmental protection is essential. With respect to the future development of the industry, tomorrow’s engineers and researchers must be well equipped to address the technological challenges pertaining to new equipment, novel instrumentation, and sensor-based automation systems in order to ensure the continuing prominence of advanced steel production technologies within the industrialized world.
Toshihiko Emi, Alexander McLean
5. Chemical Processing: Hydrometallurgy

Innovative development of a sustainable hydrometallurgical process requires economic and environmental considerations, and the application of knowledge and experience gained in a variety of chemical processing steps. Over the past decades, technological innovations have occurred largely in changes to exploit lower grade ores and continually reduce the cost of metal production. This section describes major technological innovations in chemical separation processes to recover various metals such as nickel, cobalt, copper, gold, zinc, titanium, niobium, tantalum, rare earths, palladium, and platinum from different source materials based on leaching at atmospheric and elevated pressures, heap leaching, solvent extraction, ion exchange, precipitation, cementation, and electrowinning. An analysis of the developments in chemical processing has revealed that it has been possible to meet the challenges posed by economic and environmental needs with improved resource utilization.

V. I. Lakshmanan, M. A. Halim, Shiv Vijayan
6. Biological Processing: Biological Processing of Sulfidic Ores and Concentrates—Integrating Innovations

Biological processing of sulfidic ores and concentrates is a chemical system catalyzed by microorganisms. The technology is commercially applied in run-of-mine stockpiles, crushed ore heap leaching plants, and continuous stirred tank reactors (CSTRs). Ores and concentrates with gold embedded in sulfide matrices are biologically pretreated in coarse ore heaps and CSTRs, respectively, to expose the gold for subsequent cyanide leaching, significantly enhancing gold recovery. Biological processing has undergone major transformations in the last 20 years with the engineering of processes to exploit the unique capabilities of newly discovered, naturally occurring microorganisms and to improve the design of engineered systems. Declining ore grades, depletion of easy-to-process ores, increasing energy costs, and deeper mines are contributing factors to use biological processing. In situ bioleaching is a likely future processing route as mineral deposits are located at depth and increasing global populations encroach on mine sites necessitating a reduced surface footprint.

Corale L. Brierley
7. Process Compression
Process compression is the elimination of a process step to make the process more economical. It helps in cutting the cost of production without affecting the quality of the product. Some examples of process compression are Carbon-in-Pulp (CIP) process, Resin-in-Pulp (RIP) process, heap leaching, in situ leaching, and development of Mixer-Settler equipment. These processes are described in this section to illustrate the advantages of process compression.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Raja Roy
8. Process Selection
The process selection approach based on the principles embedded in the Theory of Constraints Methodology is used to perform a structured evaluation in two stages with the goal of arriving at the best process option for implementation. The Stage 1, focussed in this section, represents an initial evaluation of all process options to arrive at a short list of the preferred options for detailed evaluation in Stage 2. It consists of a four-step analysis, namely, identification of options, identification of key performance aspects and associated performance measures, assessment of impact of the options on the performance aspects, and an overall assessment. For illustration, a demonstration of the Stage 1 evaluation considers five process options for the recovery of vanadium from flyash. On the basis of equal weighting factors for different performance aspects, and scoring and ranking, two preferred process options were short-listed. The simple but innovative approach can be considered an effective tool for the process selection team and would benefit the decision makers to arrive at a logical outcome in a consistent manner.
Shiv Vijayan, V. I. Lakshmanan
9. Metallurgical Processing Innovations: Intellectual Property Perspectives and Management
Transformational innovations in metallurgical processing are essential to surmount the challenges facing today’s mining industry. Metallurgical processing innovations arise from within the mining industry and from supporting businesses and organizations. Innovations can be new products, ideas, and methods that add value and are typically protected as intellectual property. Mining companies encounter substantial barriers in developing and implementing innovations. Successful innovation must be driven from a company’s top leadership and linked to a business strategy and future corporate vision. New approaches must be implemented to capture the benefits of R&D through strategic relationships and mechanisms that recognize and embrace “open innovation.” New approaches to test innovations must be implemented to limit disruption to ongoing production activities and manage risk. The future of metallurgical processing is likely to be vastly different from today’s operations given the emerging engineering innovations in advanced materials, electronics, robotics, synthetic biology, energy, and information technology.
Corale L. Brierley, Peter D. Kondos

Process Development

10. Conceptual Idea, Test Work, Design, Commissioning, and Troubleshooting
Once an innovative process idea has been formulated, it has to be systematically worked on to take it to a full-scale plant level for commercial gain. This consists of: (a) laboratory scale testing to prove the concept (b) followed by pilot plant test work to confirm the laboratory scale results and develop design data for a full-scale plant. Pilot scale test work is also used to evaluate materials of construction for the full-scale plant. Based on the information developed at the pilot level, a full-scale plant is built for commercial production. Once the full-scale plant is built, it is taken through a series of commissioning steps, viz., precommissioning, dry and wet commissioning, and hot commissioning. This is followed by performance testing. During this time, all the problem areas are identified and rectified to bring the plant up to design capacity. The complete process of conceiving an innovative idea and bring it to a commercial operation could take anywhere up to 10 years.
Ram Ramachandran, Alan Taylor

Process Optimization

11. An Integrated Mining and Metallurgical Enterprise Enabling Continuous Process Optimization
A holistic approach to operational excellence is becoming important as mining and metallurgical companies are presented with various challenges. More specifically, the survival of many mining companies depends on the capability to make well-informed and timely decisions that achieve dynamic and continuous optimization, despite various complexities surrounding the industry.
This chapter focuses on leveraging recent advancements in information technologies, sensors, measurement tools, real-time optimization of process control, and automation in the mining and metallurgical industries. In particular, the chapter elucidates with examples how such technologies, tools, and processes can be an enabler for an “integrated metallurgical enterprise.” In addition, the importance of a systematic approach to data analytics has been emphasized in this chapter with an aim to convert operational information into business intelligence.
Ananth Seshan, B. K. Gorain


12. Equipment Development, Design, and Optimization
Equipment development is often driven by the desire to escape from the status quo and move ahead. This desire is counteracted by fear of failure and reluctance/resistance to change. Nevertheless, innovation does occur due to the initiative of individuals and the support and assistance of colleagues inside and outside the “company.” If not for the innovation of individuals, we as humankind could very well still be living in the stone age.
Mark F. Vancas, Ram Ramachandran

Sustainable Development and Environmental Management

13. Sustainability Considerations in Innovative Process Development
The mining industry comprising extraction, mineral processing, and metallurgical processing is capital, water, and energy intensive with potential for significant environmental impacts, if the environmental aspects are not properly managed. In order to be sustainable, industry needs to carefully address all of these aspects. Addressing these aspects starts at the conceptual stage and continues through bench-scale testing, pilot plant testing, commercial demonstration, and ultimately commercial operation. Opportunities for resource, energy, and water conservation need to be evaluated. Measures that would be required for the control of emissions, effluents, and the management of wastes need to be assessed. In addition, industrial hygiene and safety requirements for the protection of the health of workers need to be studied. Finally, the community needs to be engaged throughout the process development cycle by informing them regarding the new process being developed, its benefits, and how environmental impacts will be avoided or mitigated and then soliciting their views regarding their concerns and addressing them. These considerations are discussed with illustrative examples drawn from the primary copper industry and a checklist is provided to determine whether these elements have been adequately addressed.
Krishna Parameswaran

Steps to Commercialization

14. Process Development, Execution, Owner’s Responsibility, and Examples of Innovative Developments
No innovative process is complete until the “idea” is implemented successfully on a commercial scale at the design production capacity. Prior to commercialization—based on the flowsheet and its technical evaluation—a detailed capital and operating costs should be completed to establish the financial viability of the proposed process. Assuming that the internal rate of return (IRR) based on the company’s business model is acceptable, the project—from basic engineering to commissioning and start-up—is executed with the assistance of a major, renowned engineering company. Owner’s responsibility includes: (a) staffing and training of operating and maintenance personnel, (b) monitoring the ramp-up of the plant to its full production capacity in a timely manner. In conclusion, two examples of innovative ideas taken to successful commercial operation are outlined.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Raja Roy, David King, Ram Ramachandran


15. Investing, Financing and Harvesting Innovation and Technology
Development of new innovation and technology from idea to commercialization requires financial resources. Financing can come from many sources and can be of many types. Common sources of financing include self-financing, friends and family, government, corporations, and financial institutions. The common types of financing include grants, loan, debentures, equity financing, bonds, crowdfunding, streaming financing, royalty financing, and licensing. This chapter describes the various financing options available to the innovators to commercialize their ideas.
Michael Dehn

Case Study Examples

16. Innovative Case Study Processes in Extractive Metallurgy
Case studies are presented to illustrate various innovations in the area of process metallurgy. Innovations in the process metallurgy of copper are described in some detail. Passing references are made to innovations in the process metallurgy of lead, zinc, and few other metals. Innovations in process “intensification” and processes to address solutions to environmental issues are outlined.
The chapter concludes with a suggestion to the leaders of the metallurgical industry to resurrect in-house Corporate Research and Development and title the idea as “Innovative Technology for Survival.”
V. I. Lakshmanan, Ram Ramachandran
17. Development of a New Technology for Converting Iron-Bearing Materials to Nodular Reduced Iron for Use in Various Steelmaking Operations
A process for converting iron-bearing raw materials into highly metallized nodular iron was developed in the course of this development (Fosnacht et al. 2010). This product is very similar to iron nuggets produced by other carbothermic processing methods. High-quality Nodular Reduced Iron (NRI) can be routinely produced provided the right choice of temperature profile, atmosphere control, and additives are employed. This chapter will summarize the variety of conditions tested and illustrate the best conditions for reaction mixtures and the use of auxiliary carbon materials that lead to high-quality NRI production. The process development began at the bench scale and proceeded to pilot and demonstration scales. The baseline operating conditions have been established through the work undertaken under pilot plant conditions using a specially designed linear hearth furnace (LHF), with both oxygen-gas and coal-oxygen-based combustion systems. The furnace variables were manipulated to operate under positive pressure, and reducing atmospheres using the stoichiometry of combustion to minimize oxygen content in the furnace atmosphere. A variety of carbon-based reductant materials were tested in the development.
Donald R. Fosnacht, Iwao Iwasaki, Richard F. Kiesel, David J. Englund, Rodney L. Bleifuss, M. E. Mlinar, David W. Hendrickson
18. Innovative Process for the Production of Titanium Dioxide
This case study illustrates the role of innovation in developing an environmentally friendly process to manufacture TiO2, which is an essential ingredient of paints. It is also increasingly used in plastics, rubber, paper, inks, textiles, and other applications. TiO2 is currently produced using either Chloride process or Sulfate process, which have environmental challenges. An innovative environmentally friendly hydrometallurgical process has been developed by Process Research Ortech Inc. This process is capable of treating a wide variety of ores including low-grade ores and ores containing Mg, V, or Cr. Pigment-grade TiO2 product meeting industry specifications has been produced using this process. The development of this process for the production of TiO2 illustrates the role of deeper understanding of process steps, process chemistry, and separation technologies in developing a unique innovative process.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Raja Roy, M. A. Halim
19. Innovative Processes in Electrometallurgy
Electrolytic process technology development in hydrometallurgy focuses on three main areas of interest: energy reduction, productivity, and acid mist abatement. Coated titanium anodes and new processes are leading to more energy efficient electrolytic processes. High capacity automation of electrode handling in the electrolytic cell house has resulted in large increases in productivity. Higher current densities, and larger electrodes and cells are leading to higher productivity and more capital efficient electrolytic cell house designs. Technology that reduces acid mist exposure and automation that removes the operator from the cell house have improved occupational health conditions in the cell house.
Tim Robinson
20. Innovations in Gold and Silver Processing
There are several challenges confronting the gold mining industry. One of the key challenges is the trend of increasing complexity of gold deposits with decreasing gold grades and gold-to-sulfur ratios along with higher proportions of carbonaceous matter, arsenic, copper-bearing minerals, and deleterious elements such as mercury. Many of these deposits are economically marginal as the capital and operating cost requirements are relatively high and the metal recoveries are suboptimal in addition to the need to address various environmental issues associated with these deposits. A holistic approach to innovation in mining and processing, that challenges the existing mining paradigm, is becoming more important.
This chapter reviews some of the major innovations and developments in different areas of gold and silver processing that have made a major impact in the gold industry. The areas of focus for this chapter are ore body knowledge (gold mineralogy), comminution, pre-concentration and ore beneficiation, cyanidation, oxidative pretreatment, heap leaching and alternative leaching technologies. Commercial application of Barrick’s new thiosulfate technology will be briefly discussed. In addition, innovations and technology developments that have the potential to shape the future of gold and silver processing are also presented.
B. K. Gorain, Peter D. Kondos, V. I. Lakshmanan
21. Innovative Processes for By-product Recovery and Its Applications
This chapter covers innovative processes for the production and applications of by-product metals and their compounds in various industries. Few by-product applications that have been described in some detail are: (a) photo voltaic cells, (b) fuel cells, and (c) use in nonmetallurgical industry. These were chosen in view of considerable amount of innovative R and D that is in progress today. By-products have enabled scientists to produce materials with electrical and optical properties that have been impossible to create before. The innovative breakthrough creation of graphene was the prime mover for the production of nano-scale Legos, building blocks on the atomic scale. In short, with the continual evolution of innovative processes for the production of by-product metals, the possibilities for new materials with unique properties are endless.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Ram Ramachandran
22. Conclusion
This chapter summarizes the authors’ views on innovations—past and present—in the metallurgical industry. Issues facing the industry are outlined with possible answers. It is hoped that the book will be a wake-up call to reactivate Research and Development (R&D) in the metallurgical industry to continue the work on developing innovative processes that would benefit society.
V. I. Lakshmanan, Raja Roy, Ram Ramachandran
Innovative Process Development in Metallurgical Industry
Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan
Raja Roy
V. Ramachandran
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