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ABx Group (ASX: ABX) has revealed that the latest round of independent analysis of samples from further runs of its 83%-owned subsidiary ALCORE’s bath pilot batch reactor with subsequent further processing has confirmed the highest fluorine recoveries achieved to date.

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 produce aluminium fluoride – a high-value chemical essential for aluminium smelting that is currently fully imported.

Since the bath pilot batch reactor was commissioned in October 2023, ALCORE has conducted many test runs, each typically involving approximately 10kg total of bath and sulfuric acid. ALCORE has reported steady increases in fluorine recovery, previously achieving a maximum of 80% in a single stage, and 88% with further processing.

Following fundamental data analysis and using detailed process understanding, rigorous experimental work was designed using available equipment to mimic the proposed second-stage reactor performance under optimised process conditions. As a result, ALCORE was able to achieve a maximum of 93% fluorine recovery in the latest test runs. This level of fluorine recovery would very likely be sufficient in a commercial plant.

This also means that the solid product from these test runs is representative of the likely output from a future commercial plant. This enables studies of the applications for and further processing of the solid product to be expanded.

The next step is to use the latest results to refine the continuous pilot plant reactor configuration design and tune the operating conditions. ALCORE anticipates that a slightly higher conversion will be achieved on the continuous pilot plant due to the larger scale and optimised equipment design.

“Achieving over 90% fluorine recovery in the latest test runs is a significant breakthrough for ALCORE, and is a result of the sustained, high level chemical engineering development conducted by the team. The results give us even more confidence that the process will perform as planned at commercial scale," ABx Group Managing Director and CEO Dr Mark Cooksey said.


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