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APG, ILU Becher vs ERMS

  1. 853 Posts.
    Hi everyone and particularly hello to periscope who responded to the last thread with some good in-depth info and opinion, thanks for that. I can’t find the last APG thread anymore so I’ll start a new one to further the discussion on Iluka’s Becher technology. I’ve found a copy of the Iluka patent and had a good read.

    The first two steps of the process are the new patent bits as far as I can see. The process flow appears to be;
    1. Oxidising roast in a circulating fluidised bed roaster (lugi’s forte). at 10 Bar pressure to enhance the oxidation.
    2. Reducing roast in a circulating fluidised bed roaster using Hydrogen as the reductant again at 10 Bar pressure.

    The process from here reverts to the standard Becher choices one of which is below.

    3. The normal Becher oxidation to rust the metal iron produced to iron oxide
    4. Wet cyclone separation to remove the rust (and create a fine hard to get rid of red sludge).
    5. Acid Leaching to take out the rest of the iron still closely associated with the ilmenite.

    So what I think has changed is the use of high pressure vessels and circulating fluidised bed roasters (Lurgi’s patent) with greater temperature controls and Hydrogen for the reduction step. Forgetting APG for the minute, this results in improvements in the control of the process and the range of ilmenites it can process. The cost of this is a slightly more complicated process needing pressure vessels (I’ve never liked high pressure in processes, raises OH&S risks) and a hydrogen generation plant (probably a natural gas unit).

    Looking at the APG process

    1. ERMS roast
    2. Magnetic separation (why rust a metal when a magnet can separate it for you)
    3. Acid Leach (three simpler steps to the Becher’s more complicated 5).
    4. EARS Acid regeneration which is where the iron waste is removed in an easily handleable pelletised form that may be saleable or simply used as backfill, not a wet sludge.

    Thinking it through I’m quite happy the APG advantage is still there especially the efficiencies, an improved 94% for the new Becher (in an erlenmyer flask on a lab bench) to APG’s 98% from a much larger pilot plant. I can’t find details of any larger trials for Iluka though you’d expect them to have done the fluidised bed trials over at Lurgi. That’s probably why there is a 4 year lead time.

    So as Periscope suggests, it’s down to politics and associations. Iluka has put a lot of time and money into this and three Iluka members nominated as the inventors (messrs Nicholson, Grey and Brown) will obviously be very strong advocates of this technology within Iluka.

    So where does that take us? IMHO the following is the main outcome;
    1. Iluka has made an exclusive deal. Ticor, Sons et al are locked out of it so unless Iluka takes over the whole basin and India, Austpac becomes more strategic to those companies.
    2. Iluka will need to do the sums to calculate the cost differences when Austpac’s technology is on line and whether that gives another company the edge in the market.

    If the new Iluka CEO is as canny as I’ve heard then his options are being left wide open and the announcement will be as yet an ambit. He will have many views inside to stick to what they know and have done the work on vs. the commercial pressure to keep ahead of the competition. One of the greatest dangers for a company in committing funds to a large expensive plant is the very high risk someone will get the edge with a better technology and your new plant becomes your albatross. My feeling is the ball’s in play.


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