Parker Centre scientists are taking solvent extraction (SX) modelling work to the next level with a research project launched in May. Building on P706 research, the solvent extraction technology (SXT) project aims to improve plant efficiency by increasing throughput, reducing organic losses and allowing smaller or fewer reactors, leading to lower costs.
“Although we can run mathematical models to predict the impact of design and operational parameters on droplet size distribution and fluid flow patterns, that still doesn’t translate into a practical outcome for SX plants,” says CSIRO Minerals’ Dr Martin Houchin.
“We need to incorporate mass transfer into the models to tell us how quickly and efficiently a metal is extracted from the aqueous phase into the organic phase.”
He says that in a real plant, there are a series of mixer-settlers. “And at the moment our CFD models relate to single units. So we need to incorporate the CFD results into flowsheet models so we can predict the performance of the plant in practical terms — that’s what the SXT project is all about.”
Dr Houchin says six major minerals companies have agreed to sponsor the project, although it is still open to further industry support.