The CSIRO has developed and licensed a new smelting process for low value ores that produces soluble phosphate, a key ingredient in fertiliser.
The national science agency says that their new process, licenced to PyroPhos, a subsidiary of Process Capital, is a safer and more environmentally sustainable form of production for the chemical.
Leader of the CSIRO team, Keith Banard, said it is also a simpler, more efficient activity.
“The PyroPhos smelting process uses high temperature to extract phosphate from ores, producing prized phosphate feedstock and a glassy gravel that can be used in road base construction and Portland cement,” Dr Barnard said.
“A major benefit of the process is that is can be used on lower grade ores giving phosphate miners and processors the opportunity to increase their productivity in an environmentally sustainable way.”
The traditional ‘wet acid’ process of phosphate production produces around three tonnes of phosphogypsym per tonne of phospate produced. Phosphogypsym is a byproduct that is banned for most applications due to the presence of naturally occurring uranium and thorium, making it too radioactive for use in most applications.
According to CSIRO, the new smelting-based process produces a safe gravel byproduct, which could be used in Portland cement or road base aggregate.
The new PyroPhos process also has a smaller plant footprint than the wet acid process as it combines two processes in one unit, and replaces sulphur with less expensive coke.
The newly licensed process is based around submerged lance (TSL) technology, originally developed by CSIRO and now commercially applied for smelting copper, tin and zinc, using CSIRO simulation facilities to expand this technnology into the parameters needed to process phosphate.
PyroPhos managing director, Mark Muzzin, said that the company plans to market the technology in as many as 30 countries.
“CSIRO has developed the core IP and will be the R&D centre supporting our design engineers for our work with individual producers,” he said.
“We bring industry knowledge to the partnership – from the economics, to the processes and people. It’s now up to us to evolve the IP and convert it into commercially proven technology.”
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