ABx Group’s (ASX: ABX) 83%-owned subsidiary, ALCORE, has completed three test runs under standard process conditions since commissioning the state-of-the-art bath pilot batch reactor.
The reactor is operating at the ALCORE Technology Centre on the NSW Central Coast and has been designed for the recovery of fluorine from ‘excess bath’ (an aluminium smelter waste) to produce hydrogen fluoride. At commercial scale, a proportion of the hydrogen fluoride will be further processed via an existing commercial process to aluminium fluoride – a high-value chemical essential for aluminium smelting that is currently fully imported.
The new reactor is approximately ten times larger than the company’s previous laboratory- scale reactor. Each run has involved approximately 10 kg total of bath and sulphuric acid.
Following two runs and minor equipment modifications, the reactor is now performing as designed. In particular, the reactor is achieving enhanced process mixing.
Hydrogen fluoride gas has successfully been produced throughout each of the test runs. In the most recent run, several kilograms of metal sulphate powder were produced that appeared similar to the powder previously produced by more manual methods using smaller reactors, where more than 90% of the fluorine was extracted.
Managing Director and CEO Dr Mark Cooksey said this gives confidence that the enhanced process mixing is delivering higher fluorine yield in a single pass, which is a highly significant milestone for the ongoing scale-up of the ALCORE process.
Several powder samples from the runs have been sent to an external laboratory to measure the fluorine content and confirm the fluorine yield. Results from these independent assessments are anticipated in January 2024.
The scale-up of this technology is all about process and equipment validation at increasing scales of operation, increasingly providing us with certainty that our world-first process can be efficiently and effectively scaled up to commercial operation,” Dr Cooksey said.
“Since conducting our first runs with this significantly larger batch reactor in November, we have demonstrated that we can run the reactor safely under standard process conditions and can produce hydrogen fluorine. Now we are seeing evidence that it is capable of producing the all- important higher fluorine yield that underpins commercial production.
“Greater certainty of our progress will be provided in January with the receipt of assay results.
“I am exceptionally pleased with the acceleration of ALCORE’s activities and look forward to further runs of the batch reactor, as every run offers further insights into the design for the next critical stage of development – the continuous pilot plant.”