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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Middle East & Asia: May 5th 2011


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:: Cleaner Lead Recycling with Natural Gas

Metal Reclamation (Industries) Sdn. Bhd. (MRI) has been successfully operating a secondary lead plant in Malaysia since 1972. MRI became the second smelter to install an ISASMELTTM furnace for secondary lead smelting in 2000. This furnace has been their major production furnace ever since, allowing MRI to meet Malaysia’s increasingly stringent environmental requirements, with regards to sulphur emissions and slag disposal.

The MRI plant has been producing 25,000 to 35,000 tonnes of refined lead per year for the past decade through the ISASMELTTM from a feed consisting predominantly of spent lead acid batteries. The ISASMELTTM furnace produces a soft lead, which is further refined, and a slag that is granulated and discarded. The key to the MRI plant is the combustion of fuel in the ISASMELTTM lance. Initially, the lance was fired by diesel/air combustion, and was later converted by MRI to run with 20 tpd of additional oxygen. A recent modification has been to convert the plant so that it can use natural gas as fuel rather than diesel resulting in significant cost savings.

Gas Conversion

Xstrata Technology, working with MRI, helped design and build the new lance for use with natural gas. Over several months in late 2009, and early in 2010, the ISASMELTTM furnace, lance and control systems at MRI were converted for operation with natural gas. Xstrata Technology personnel attended during the commissioning of the new equipment and were able to assist with the start-up. Since the successful completion of the natural gas conversion, the MRI smelter has operated well, with only minor interruptions due to the shortage of spent batteries.

When asked about the ISASMELTTM furnace operation since the conversion project, MRI assistant plant manager Andrew Lim said, "The switch over to natural gas from medium fuel oil has been nothing but beneficial both in terms of cost and operations. We now experience improved lance life, faster heat ups and reduced sulphur in our off gas among other things."

The successful natural gas conversion at MRI has led to significant fuel cost savings for the smelter, as well as making it easier to control. A similar conversion was undertaken at the Mount Isa Copper ISASMELTTM in 2000 which has operated consistently on natural gas since the conversion. This shows again that the ISASMELTTM furnace is a flexible technology that can be adapted to changes in the economics of fuel and feed supply to suit prevailing circumstances.




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