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Advanced modelling enhances minerals processing: CSIRO

Researchers at the CSIRO have found that using advanced mathematical modelling can significantly improve the performance of unit operations used in the mineral processing industry for processing businesses.

CSIRO delegates working in the Minerals Down Under Flagship regularly use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling to examine the flow patterns within unit operations, such as fluidised beds, hydrocyclones, flotation cells, settling tanks, thickeners and gravity separation devices.

Information generated by the models can then be used to optimise the unit operation, or to improve equipment design.

According to CSIRO, multi-metals business Nyrstar used CFD modelling to identify the cause of brick degradation in a roaster dome at its Tasmanian zinc smelter.

The technique was then used to examine a range of possible solutions, giving the company confidence in its selection of a final solution.

Similarly, mineral processing technology provider Outotec used CFD modelling to get a clear picture of solids distribution, fluid flow and flocculant performance in its new vane feedwell design, which led to a slight tweaking of the design, targeted to improve overall thickener performance.

According to Dr Phil Schwarz from the Minerals Down Under Flagship, CFD modelling offers a number of benefits, but it is the detailed understanding of the flows and related chemistry that make the technique of real value to industry.

“CFD allows us to identify complex flow patterns, reactions and heat transfer occurring at a range of scales within these unit operations,” he said.

“Having this understanding means we are able to optimise processes and equipment mathematically, which means there’s less of a need to construct expensive pilot plants.”

The application of CFD modelling in the minerals and process industries and the latest advances in CFD modelling techniques will be the focus of a three day conference being held from 9—11 December Melbourne, Victoria.

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