Capabilities of Mintek's Pyrometallurgy Division
CapabilitiesThe Pyrometallurgy Division, as at March 2015, employs 83 people, including 29 engineering staff, 3 with PhD degrees, and 5 with MSc(Eng) degrees.
The division is perhaps best known internationally for its ability to carry out large-scale piloting of electric smelting, especially in DC arc furnaces. There is also substantial expertise in thermodynamics, process modelling, furnace design, and process mineralogy, and high-temperature laboratories.
InfrastructureThe infrastructure of the division can be sub-divided into:
The largest furnace that Mintek has is a 3 MW DC arc furnace in Bay 2 that has a 4.25 m diameter shell and operates using a 5.6 MVA power supply. This furnace is the leading pilot plant of this kind in the world. It has been used for the demonstration of the smelting step of the ConRoast process over a period of around six years during which time more than 50 000 tons of feed material was smelted. This furnace is operated in conjunction with a flash-drying plant that is able to treat about 60 tons per day of feed material. (An externally electrically heated rotary kiln is also available as alternative drying equipment.)
The high-temperature laboratories are equipped to undertake thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA) at temperatures up to 1650°C. Pre-reduction and roasting can be carried out in a variety of reactors, from fluidized beds to rotary kilns, under controlled atmospheres, treating up to 10 kg of material. Smelting of small batches of material (5 g to 5 kg) is done in a variety of furnaces including vertical tube furnaces (for classical phase-chemical investigations) to gas-tight muffle furnaces (controlled atmosphere), and larger induction furnaces (5 kg). Converting of alloys and mattes is done in an induction furnace. Characterisation of furnace products is done using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD), and this extends to refractory performance evaluation. Physical testing is done on pellet strength, sinter competency, and disintegration index. Fume and particulate matter in off-gases can be captured and studied. Reductant reactivity measurements are carried out.
R&D ActivitiesMintek's Pyrometallurgy Division currently has about 12 research projects underway, with an annual budget of approximately R12 million. A common thread running through most of the projects is that of more efficient technologies and sustainability.
Given Mintek's international stature in the field of DC arc furnaces, a major focus has been put on computational modelling of arc behaviour and other aspects of DC arc furnaces, such as radiation, energy transfer, and electrical parameters. Studies on molecular modelling and slag chemistry are also carried out. Submerged-arc furnace burden behaviour is studied using discrete element modelling (DEM). Development of a high-speed measurement system (DC ArcMon) is being undertaken, in collaboration with Mintek's Measurement and Control Division, as well as Wits University. High-speed imaging of arcs is used to provide a better understanding of their behaviour. The baking of Söderberg electrodes in DC furnaces is being studied. Another area of study with huge potential (and huge challenges) is that of energy recovery from molten slags. Titanium production, purification, and chlorination in fluidized beds is also under investigation. A study is also being undertaken around the updated economics of thermal magnesium production.
Copyright © 1996-2015, Rodney Jones, Mintek email@example.com (Last updated on 25 March 2015)