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Removing the waste streams from the primary Aluminium production and other metal sectors in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RemovAL (Removing the waste streams from the primary Aluminium production and other metal sectors in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

The answer to the current Raw Material supply challenge faced today in Europe, lies in technological innovations that increase the efficiency of resource utilization and allow the exploitation of yet untapped resources such as industrial waste streams and metallurgical by-products. One of the key industrial residues which is currently not or poorly valorised is Bauxite Residue (BR, more commonly known as “red mud”) from alumina refineries. Bauxite residue reuse solutions do exist as stand-alone but pooling them together in an integrated manner is the only way to render bauxite residue reuse viable from an economical point of view and acceptable for the industry
Bauxite Residue from the alumina industry is stockpiled at a rate of 7 Million tons on dry basis per year in Europe:
• With an average iron oxide content of 40wt%, can be considered as an equivalent of 3.4 Mt of iron ore available in Europe. This results into a 4% decrease in iron ore imports and a 18% increase in European iron ore production.
• With an average alumina content of 20wt% and an inherent clay-like behaviour BR is a valuable raw material for various building applications; Recycling the alumina and soda (2-4%wt) of the BR back to the alumina refinery will lead to practically 100% extraction efficiency of alumina from bauxite ore.
• BR is a considerable resource for REE. Extracting the REE from AoG’s annual BR production can meet the needs of approximately 10% of the European REE demand.
• Ga is found in bauxite ores at levels of 30-80 g/t and is dissipated in the alumina and BR streams; extracting Ga from both the BR and Bayer liquor from a single European alumina refinery would amount to global levels of Ga production (annual world production 284 t in 2012)
The RemovAl project will combine, optimize and scale-up developed processing technologies for extracting base and critical metals from such industrial residues and valorising the remaining processing residues in the construction sector. In RemovAL, 6 innovative pilot plants will be run in 5 EU countries. Combined they will form a network of technological nodes, enabling optimum processing flow sheets for valorising the produced Bauxite Residue (BR) from alumina refineries along with other industrial by-products like Spent Pot Lining (SPL) from aluminium smelters. These technologies can then be adjusted to suit all kind of BR compositions around Europe. The validation will be done for 3 European alumina producers (represeanting 44% of the European alumina production) and one legacy site owner, present in the consortium
-Innovative pilot plants for valorising the bauxite residue (BR) from alumina refineries along with other industrial by-products such as spent pot lining (SPL) from aluminium smelters have been assessed under an initial pre-feasibility study herein [Deliverable D1.1 -MS1]. Data collected within the pre-feasibility study combines, the energy and mass flowsheets for the key technologies, an economic review of each of these technologies, an inventory of waste available within the EU to potentially feed the technologies and finally an initial review of the industrial ecosystem surrounding the refineries that could support such technologies. The 4 ecosystems consist of the 3 alumina producers (Aluminium of Greece, Aughinish Alumina in Ireland, ALUM in Romania and 1 legacy site owner – Rio Tinto legacy site in France). Subsequently the study is being used to develop the definitive feasibility study based on the on-going information being received from the pilot demonstrations testing phase.
-Dealkalinzation Technology: Laboratory tests confirmed that for two tested samples of BR (Irish and Greek) the required decrease in residual alkali to the value below 0.5% was achievable
-Soil Cement technology: Laboratory tests confirmed that using the samples of BR received from the Aughinish plant (Irish BR), it is feasible to produce a blend of materials suitable to be used as sub-base for heavy traffic roads. In particular the mechanical performance reached combining BR (both sand and mud fractions), pulverised fly ash from coal power plants and lime to accomplish the 100% of the mechanical requirements for soil stabilised and soil-cement sub-base layers.
-Production of lightweight aggregates : Laboratory tests on 4 different BR by ZAAK showed that lightweight aggregates (smart spheres) can be produced in all cases with bulk densities ranging from 0.8 to 1.0 kg/l
-Production of high performance binders:Laboratory tests at KUL confirmed the potential to produce high-performance binder from ALUM and Aughinish BR. A maximum compressive strength of 120 MPa was achieved after 28 d for alkali-activated mortars using as precursor a mix consisting of 82 wt% of BR.
-Production of ferro-silicon alloy :Extensive work has been done on BR pre-treatment ( in preparation of EAF processing; Lab scale experiments in smelting BR samples from 4 different sources have produced pig-iron with Si content ranging from 10 to 17 % wt. SPL has been successfully tested as a carbon source substitute in the smelting process.
-Hydrometallurgical processing of slags:Lab scale investigation in leaching preliminary slags with aqueous acidic or alkaline solution has been undertaken in NTUA and RWTH. Lab scale investigations of Sc, REEs and Ga extraction and purification has been undetaken.
-Removal has produced a first document about policy issues on BR reuse.
The European aprimary aluminium industry in 2016 utilized about 12 million tonnes of bauxite to produce about 7 million tons of alumina (out of the 115 million tonnes worldwide), and imported an additional 4 million tonnes of alumina to produce about 4 million tonnes of primary aluminium (out of the 59 million tonnes worldwide). The alumina and primary aluminium sector in Europe employs directly about 16,000 people. The alumina and primary aluminium sector in Europe are at the basis of the whole European Aluminium industry, which employs directly and indirectly more than 1,000,000 persons in more than 600 plants and generates about 40 billion Euros in annual turnover. This sector is associated with two by-products that undermine its sustainability: Bauxite Residue (BR) from the alumina production and Spent Pot Lining (SPL) from the primary aluminium production.
Plerimianry economo-technic analysis of RemovAL technologies shows that there is potential for viability and combination between them. Main target of the project remains near zero-waste and near break-even holistic processing of BR and other wastes.
RemovAL will not only provide a sustainable solution for the management and valorisation of BR and SPL– a significant social, environmental and economic problem of the alumina and primary aluminium industry – but it will further demonstrate the overall potential for sustainable industrial processing through process and material cascading and cross-sectorial financial joint ventures. This paradigm of enhanced industrial ecology is by far a greater benefit for the European industry and the European technology research community than the individual technological breakthroughs and product innovations established in each processing step of the flow sheet. Industrial symbiosis and waste-to-resources/zero-waste processing have long been identified as key pillars for a more sustainable and resilient EU industry.
REMOVAL Project Infographic