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MEI Online: Pyrometallurgy: Latest News: June 3rd 2008


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:: Global Licence to Market Novel, Proven Furnace Cooling Technology

Composite Furnace Module (CFM) cooling technology has been used by BHP Billiton in its electric arc slag cleaning furnace at Olympic Dam in Australia to achieve a fourfold increase in campaign life, delivering millions of dollars in annual re-lining savings. With the conclusion of a licence agreement between Bateman Engineering and the University of Melbourne, Australia, Bateman Engineering has secured world-wide rights to market the technology to the non-ferrous pyrometallurgical industry.

The technology, which was developed through a close co-operation between the University of Melbourne, Australia and industry, (the former Western Mining Company now owned by BHP Billiton) in the late 1990s, is a patented concept, which has been thoroughly tested in industrial furnaces. The concept provides significantly increased refractory life, especially under arduous operating conditions, and can be tailored to match a wide range of furnace conditions as well as specific duties within different zones of the furnace vessel, giving an essentially uniform hot face temperature. The application of CFMs led to an over threefold increase in furnace life in its first full installation, at the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter as electrode surrounds in the appendage of the flash furnace in June 1998, and the resulting financial benefit from that increase.

Bateman Engineering has had extensive practical experience in the application of the CFM cooling technology at BHP Billitonís Olympic Dam operation in Australia and is now in a position to promote the technology to its customers around the globe.

The technology was employed in the design of new linings to upgrade two furnaces producing blister copper at Olympic Dam. In a below bath application, in late 2003, the sidewall lining of the electric-arc slag-cleaning furnace was replaced with CFMs because of the furnaceís short campaign life, which averaged around 13 months due to the severe chemical corrosion of the refractory material. This furnace has been operating successfully since then, at an annual savings of approximately A$12,000,000 in relining costs, as well as a reduction in furnace downtime. The CFM cooling system is still performing in accordance with specification and, as the upgraded CFM lining is still in operation, this currently represents a fourfold increase in campaign life. Due to the success of this application, CFM cooling technology was then used to upgrade the linings for Olympic Damís copper-flash smelter. This enhanced the performance of the cooling elements over those previously installed in the flash furnaceís upper sidewalls and roof, significantly increasing the life of the lining in these areas and improving the sealing of the furnace against air ingress.

Bateman Engineering has also recently implemented CFM cooling in the design of a smelter roof for BHP Billitonís Nickel West Smelter in Australia. The large thermal fluctuations in the furnace had adversely affected the old ceramic refractory roof and it is anticipated that the new copper roof will greatly increase the campaign life of the roof. The CFM cooling system consists of a water-cooled backing plate from which copper rods extend towards the hot face of the refractory lining. Castable refractory fills the space between the rods, thermally and chemically protecting the copper. The copper rods effectively increase the thermal conductivity of the matrix, thereby lowering the hot face operating temperature. The rods also anchor and structurally support the refractories. Distributing the copper throughout the refractory reduces temperature variations on the hot face, and allows the technology to be tailored to the specific application, avoiding over-cooling and optimising the use of copper.

The major design feature is the maintenance of a uniform temperature over the entire hot face to minimise thermal stresses and uneven wear. This, combined with the high heat capacity of the system, allows the creation and maintenance of a stable layer of accretion, or freeze lining, on the working face of the CFMs. The accretion layer is self-maintaining, providing an extended campaign life over conventional furnace linings systems.

The CFM technology can be tailored to suit both a specific furnace, and a specific area in the furnace such as bath sidewalls, freeboard areas, tapholes and roof ports. By adjusting critical design parameters, such as the rod length and diameter and the refractory to copper ratio, both within a module and from one module to another, the cooling for any given point within a furnace can be optimised. The ability of the technology to form a freeze layer in most applications also allows a greater degree of flexibility in the choice of refractory.

The CFM system can be fitted with advanced status monitoring systems to ensure safe operation.

The licence agreement has placed Bateman Engineering in a position to offer world class refractory system solutions to the global pyrometallurgical industry. Bateman Engineering plans to actively market the technology into projects involving both plant upgrades and new installations.




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