Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 15
4at WMCR - Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter operations overview 1972 - 2005 J.Palmer, J. Malone and D.Loth + WMC Resources Lid. Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter, Australia ABSTRACT WMC Resources’ Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter was commissioned in 1972 at a design capacity of 30,000 pa of contained Nickel in matte. A series of upgrades and progressive improvements have resulted in a design capacity increase to 110,000 tpa of contained Nickel in matte. The smelter sources nickel-in-concentrate from three Mine / Concentrators and supplies nickel-in-matte to WMC’s Nickel Refinery and export customers. The Flash Furnace was last rebuilt in 1999, and is over halfway through the 10-year campaign target. The many modifications over the previous campaigns, including the Integrated Flash Furnace, are reviewed. Recent operation of the smelter and the development of the process during the current campaign are detailed herein, An overview of key interfaces with the Nickel Business Unit Concentrators and Refinery operations is provided. ‘Nickel and Cobalt 2008 Challenges in Extraction and Production 44 Annual Conference of Metallurgists of CIM Calgary, Alberta, Conada uited by J. Donald and R, Schonewille 442 . NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 INTRODUCTION ‘The Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter (KNS) was constructed and commissioned in December 1972 to supply the nickel matte market, Nickel was first discovered at Kambalda in 1966, and a Sherritt - Gordon refinery was constructed at Kwinana in 1970 to treat high-grade nickel concentrates. This initial approach provided the best aventie to. the nickel metal market at the time, It_was clear that opportunities also existed in the nickel matte market and construction of smelter also provided an opportunity to expand nickel production from Kambalda, Following a review of ‘smelting technology, the decision was made to utilise Flash Smelting. The KNS furnace represented the first nickel furnace commissioned after the Harjavalta furnace and shortly before the furnace at BCL Lid. in Botswana, ‘The operating performance for KNS is reflected in the campaign data provided in Table 1. The original circuit consisted of a traditional Flash Furnace with one separate slag-cleaning fumace, Low-grade matte was converted to low iron matte in two Pierce. Smith converters. Energy from waste fumace gases was recovered in an Ahlstrom boiler and superheated for power generation, ‘The original flow shect for the smelter is provided in Figure 1. ‘Table 1, KNS Campaign performance data Campaign No * Duration Concentrate Smeited (months) (tonnes) 1 10 41,005 2 12 144,761 3 19 441,005 4 27 670,206 5 37 909,002 6 143 3,178,575 7 42 2,085,557 8 20 1,191,575 9 (to HOM Mar 2005) B 4,265,322 * A campaign is defined as heat up to cool down’from and fo a cold condition. Numerous changes to the flow sheet have been made since 1972, Principal amongst these are the No.2 integrated Flash Furnace, increased converting capacity, additional waste heat recovery generation and waste gas treatment. The current flow sheet is provided in Figure 2, 443 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 Figure 1 - Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter year 1970 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 444 Figure 2 ~ Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter year 2000 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 ~ ae In 1972 the nameplate capacity of the smelter was 30,000 tonne of nickel contained in matte, Over time this has been progressively increased to the current 110,000 tonne of Ni in matte, The period has witnessed three major upgrades in 1974/75, 1978 and 1993. Waste gas treatment and smelter debotilenecking has occurred from 1996 to present to realise the current capacity of 110,000 tonne of Ni.in matte with the current debottlenecking program targeting 120,000 tonne of Ni in matte. A brief history of issues and achievements is provided in the following campaign data. CAMPAIGN 1 At the time that the smelter was commissioned, the Kambalda concentrator was producing high-grade nickel concentrate as a direct feed to the Sherritt-Gordon refinery in Kwinana, Feeding high-grade concentrate to the Flash Furnace resulted in the generation of high magnesia slags and consequently required a higher temperature of operation. The steaming rate on the Ahisirom boiler constrained the concentrate feed to the furnace, The high temperature of operation resulted in loss of reftactory in the curtain water-cooled reaction shaft and damage to the shaft transition at the settler. Tn addition, the high magnesia slags resulted in sovere bath accretions in the settler. CAMPAIGN 2 ‘The initial response to high magnesia content in smelter slags was to increase the pytthotite recovery at the concentrators, Fe/MgO ratios in concentrate were increased whilst nickel grades were reduced. This change occurred patt way through the second campaign. At the time of the fumace repair in September 1973, the boiler was upgraded by providing additional feed water capacity. ‘The fumace was shutdown after 12 months due to failure of the reaction shaft transition and upper settler sidewall coils. CAMPAIGN 3 The inability to feed design rates of concentrate to the Flash Fumaco was corrected at the commencement of the third campaign by the installation of a 180 td oxygen plant. 446 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 A significant upgrade to the smelter seguited between September 1974 ang August 1975, including a second electric slag cleaning furnace and the No.3 converter, Design capacity of the smelter was ineressut om 30,000 fo 45,000 Hannum of nicket in Matte, The issue of high levels of magnesia in slag was further addvessed by the addition of lime as a flux, Electrodes were also installed in the settler of the Flash Fumace to The campaign ended in June 1976 following faiture of the reaction shaft transition and settler roof, CAMPAIGN 4 Daring the fourth campaign the upgraded Auelter capacity was realised, Sterdy smelter performance and an acceptable campaign life on the fuunace was achieved, At the time the No.1 furnace was shutdown the hearth had lifted. In addition the traditional weak areas of the furnace had again failed, CAMPAIGN 5 The first campaign on the integiated fumace (Nov 1978 — Dee 1981) was Successful and exceeded the previous jimpaign on the No.! fumace. The high weer area WS at the gas impact point in the uptake shah jie loss of the reaction shaft transition and Wear on the upper settler sidewalls below the reaction shaft were also Conteibuting factors in shutting the fimacs down for major repaits, The change from the No.1 to the integrated No2 furnace increased the design concentrate treatment from 320,000 to 550,000 Va. Treatment of Agnew Mine Concentrates commenced during 1979, NICKEL AND CUBALL 2002 oe During this campaign the No.1 electric furnace from the original smelting circuit was used as a cobalt furnace to treat converter slag, revert and. high cobalt laterites. CAMPAIGN 6 ‘The second campaign on the integrated furnace lasted almost 12 years ( Jan 1982 _- Sept 1993) and represented a record campaign length for any Flash Fumace at the time. In the early stages of the campaign the Agnew Mine was closed and concentrate throughput on the famace was restricted. Subsequently the Agnew Mine was purchased ty WMC and concentrate supply re-established in 1991, Towards the end of the campaign the furnace was fully utilised as part of the 1991 strategy to increase nickel production. ‘The length of the campaign was sided by establishing a range of on-line maintenance practises and the re-design of critical areas of the furnace, particularly the reaction shaft transition. ‘At the end of the sixth campaign the furnace was in very poor condition following failure of the reaction sliaft and settler roofs. During the final stages of preparing the furnace for a shutdown the hearth also lifted. CAMPAIGN 7 The third major upgrade of the smelter ocourred in October 1993, raising the nominal capacity from 55,000 to 80,000 t/a of nickel in matte product. This increase was achieved by increasing the oxygen plant capacity from 180 to 525 t/d. The Flash Fumace ‘was upgraded during the rebuild, ‘The famace operation was severely restricted during the carly part of the campaign due to Air Quality shutdowns, ‘The smelter design capacity could only be realised by an increase in concentrate grade reporting to the furnace. Concentrate from the Mt Keith deposit, acquired in 1992, was introduced in September 1994, Following the introduction of Leinster concentrate and subsequently ME Keith, the magnesia levels in concentrate, and ultimately famace slag, were observed to progressively increase. Debottlenecking of the smelter related to air quality lost time, commenced in 1995 and the acid plant for treatment of furnace gases was commissioned in 1996. The 448 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 ‘campaign ended following an explosion in the appendage of the furnace after failure of ‘an electrode cooling water gland seal in April 1997. CAMPAIGN 8 ‘The eighth campaign was shortened due to lifting of the furnace heatth. Lifting was promoted by thermal cycling of the furnace resulting from air quality shutdowns and the April 1997 major repair. The hearth lifted in March 1998 but was operated’ for a farther 9 months. Despite the apparent problems with the furnace, the smelter capacity was raised to 110,000 Va of nickel in matte product. The debottlenecking program in place throughout the campaign continued with the major project involving the incorporation of converter gases to the acid plant. ‘The 8th campaign ended with the total failure of the hearth in early January 1999, CAMPAIGN 9 (current) The furnace hearth, lower sidewalls and reaction shaft roof were rebuilt in 1999, ‘The furnace is now over 6 years into the planned 10 year campaign and performing well. DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROCESS Since 1972 there have been three major upgrades of the smelter, the introduction of integrated Flash Smelting and the debottlenecking projects. The offect of these changes is summarised in Table 2. : Table 2, Process Development at KNS “Timing Change Capacity (Va Ni in Matte) - December 1972 Smelter installation, 30,000 1974/75 No.1 circuit upgrade 45,000 1978 Integrated Fash Fumace 55,000 * 1993 No.2 circuit upgrade 80,000 1996/99 Smelter debottlenecking 110,000 2004/05 ‘Smelter debottlenecking - 120,000 (target) NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 449 Upgrade 1974/75 Prior to the upgrade, the No.1 Flash Fumace was rated at 2St/h of new © concentrate. Fumace slag was batch tapped into one 6MVA circular slag-cleaning furnace, Low-grade furnace matte supplied two 12 x 24 ft Peirce-Smith converters. ‘The high magnesia content of the concentrate resulted in a constraint to furnace concentrate feed. Higher than anticipated operating temperatures in the firmace were required to maintain acceptable bath conditions. ‘The smelter upgrade achieved two purposes; namely the climination of the initial smelter constraints and an increase in the production capacity to 45,000 t/a of nickel in matte product. Actions taken included: «= inetease in the boiler capacity from 37 to 47 th by additional feed water supply. installation of 180 t/d oxygen plant capacity; + asecond 6 MVa circular electric slag cleaning furnace; installation of a third Peirce-Smith converter and enlargement of converters to 12 x 28 ft vessels; . installation of electrodes in the settler of the Flash Furnace for independent slag temperature control; . reduction in concentrate gtade through increased sulphide recovery resulting in an increase in the concentrate Fe/MgO ratio; + addition of lime for slag modification and improved fluidity at high levels of magnesia in slag. The upgraded smolter throughput was realised during the fourth campaign. Integrated Furnace Design - 1978 ‘The No.1 Flash Fumace was not capable of being further upgraded beyond the capacity of 320,000 t/a of nickel concentrate. The integrated furnace design provided the ability to increase concentrate and nickel throughput while addressing a renge of process issues. The principle features of the integrated furnace design and upgrades included: four new venituti type concentrate burners; internally water cooled reaction shaft; suspended appendage roof, slag return into the furnace appendage; new Kawasaki waste heat boiler; second Lurgi clectrostatic precipitator. Furnace capacity was raised to a nominal 450,000 t/a of concentrate without oxygen enrichment and 550,000 t/a with 180 t/d oxygen enrichment, although the furnace itself was capable of further expansion with additional oxygen enrichment. 450 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 “The integrated fumnace design also addressed the following process issues: + high energy costs; + low evel fume emission; + handling low sulphur matte; +” furnace labour requirements. For the No.1 smelter, energy costs were very significant, By integrating the three fornaces into one, it was determined that furnace surface heat losses and the slag temperature drop between furnaces would be reduced or avoided. ‘The separate electric furnaces produced roof level emissions and low level stack emissions which contributed to a poor working environment, Tn the integrated furnace the slag cleaning section emissions were exhausted into the uptake and waste heat boiler, with the furnace providing superior pressure control. ‘The electric furnaces typically produced mattes containing 10% Sulphur by mass and temperatures in excess of 1,300°C for ease of tapping. Tapping and handling high temperature matte proved to involve significant risk, By reducing three furnaces into the one vessel, significant reductions in labour requirements for matte and slag handling were possible. Mixing of matte between the oxidation and reduction zones of the integrated furnace prevented low sulphur matte. Upgrade 1993 ‘The 1993 upgrade represented a component of rebuilding the WMC nickel business. Pivotal to this process was the acquisition of the Agnow Mine (LINO) and the Mt Keith (MIO) deposit, Leinster concentrate was available during 1991 whilst Mt Keith production commenced in 1994. The key features of the 1993 upgrade included: + anew 525 t/d oxygen plant; + upgraded integrated Flash Fumacos + debottienecking materials handling areas. Improvements to the No.2 Flash Fumace included: four new concentrate bumets based on jet-flow operating principles; independent flow and purity control of process sis to the four concentrate burners an improved reaction shaft transition design; additional upper settler sidewall coppet cooling elements; flattening of the settler roof; proviston for the installation of electrodes into the settler; extensive horizontal copper cooling of the uptake shaft; the introduction of refractory slabs into the appendage toof; replacement of the’insulated concrete hearth base with a magnesite refractory subheatth + installation of a water cooled dome surround in the uptake shaft roof; NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 451 . repositioning of the slag return launder from the appendage to the settler; The rebuild involved a total replacement of the furnace apart from the base plate, grillage and binding structure. Improved material handling work was completed in the areas of concentrate conveying, furnace feed system, slag haulage, aisle cranage and matte granulation, At the completion of the upgrade, the Flash Fumace rated capacity was 110,000 va of nickel concentrate whilst the smelter was constrained at the converters to 80,000 t/a of nickel in product matte, . Environmental/Debottlenecking Projects 1996 - present It became apparent in the early stages of the 7th campaign that air quality control impacts on furnace throughput were going to be higher than projected. Planned nickel throughput on the smelter could ouly be realised by increasing the nickel grade of concentrate, ‘The installation of the acid plant for treatment of fumace gases addressed: + the need for improved air quality in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder residential area; + the Jost time on the Flash Fumace caused by air quality shutdown; + the opportunity for increasing production from the Mt Keith operation to bring smelter throughput above 100,000 ta nickel in matte product, In order to realise the increased throughput, a debottlenecking program for ‘materials handling and converting was required. The components of this program. inchided: * improved taphole availability and tapping productivity. Individual projects included improved copper cooling, mudguns and drills, and air- conditioning; * improved aisle crane availability and utilization. Crane utilisation improvements centred on removing non-essential dutioss * increased blower air supply to allow for two converters to be operated in patallel; * automated stack charging systems in the converters to release aisle cranes from stack charging * converter hooding and ducting of primary gases to the acid plant. ‘This major Project minimised converter lost time due to air quality control shutdowns, Process Issues The original review of smelting technology and the selection of Flash Smelting Was strongly influenced by the cost of energy in Western Australia, Utilising the energy value of the concentrate combined with waste heat recovery proved to be a strong argument, although Flash Smelt nickel concentrates was only practiced at the Harjavaita Smelter at the time, 452 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 ‘The principal process issue to be addressed by Flash Smelting over the 32 years of KNS has been the magnesia content of concentrate, The impact of magnesia in concentrate on smelter performance was originally under estimated and the main reason ‘that concentrate throughput was constrained. ‘The performance of the Flash Furnace during the first three campaigns was strongly influenced by the need to operate at higher than design slag temperatures, Actions taken during the period to address the magnesia issue included: . increase in the operating temperature of the Flash Furnace; . adjusting the level of sulphide recovery at the concentrators and the production of lower grades containing higher levels of pyrthotite; . the addition of lime as a fluxing agent to rednce slag liquidus and improve slag fluidity. . the incorporation of electrodes into the settler of the Flash Furnace to provide means of raising the slag temperature. The experience gained in operating electrodes in the Flash Furnace assisted in the decision to move to an integrated furnace design. The introduction of integrated Flash Smelting in 1978 allowed the application of a bulk float at the Kambalda concentrator and the production of concentrates exhibiting high Fe/MgO ratio. Following the inclusion of Leinster and Mt Keith concentrate, magnesia levels in concentrate again became a process issue. Magnesia levels in concentrate have inoreased progressively as the proportion of Leinster and Mt Keith concentrate has increased. A ange of options were considered for managing increased lovels of magnesia inchuding: flotation improvements at the concentrators; + slag modification through addition of lime; + high temperature Flash Smelting; + acid leaching of Mt Keith concentrate; + options for addition of iron to the furnace. High levels of magnesia are now, and will continue to be a feature of furnace operation. Flotation improvements at the concentrators, and slag modification with lime addition have become standard operating procedure, while others remain under consideration, Engineering Issues ‘The broad engineering issues that have or are being addressed include: + campaign life of the furnace; + safe operation of refiactory cooling systems; + design of the furnace hearth, NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 453 Campaign Life ‘The first three campaigns on the No.1 Flash Furnace were short and even the improved 4th campaign was shorter than industry standards at the time. Campaign life was a function of refractory erosion andl failure of the furnace cooling system in critical areas of the furnace, for example, the transitions for the reaction and uptake shafts. ‘The failures of the first four campaigns were addressed in the integrated furnace with the application of horizontal plates in the reaction shaft and upper settler sidewalls. ‘The need for improved copper conductivity was recognised and drilled passage copper was installed in most areas of the furnace. ‘The first campaign on the integrated furnace was successful and the second ‘campaign lasted almost 12 years. A featuro of the sixth furnace campaign was the approach adopted to on-line maintenance of the furnace cooling system. All areas of the furnace above the bath level could either be replaced or rebuilt as required, This was largely the instrument to extending the fumace campaign. The view adopted at KNS is that all areas of the furnace apart from the hearth can be maintained for extended periods. During the seventh and eighth campaigns, NS experienced both a failure from a water explosion and also a hearth failure, The current campaign has seen extensive maintenance conducted on all roofs, sidewalls, tapholes and bumers through shorter duration shutdowns. Extensive additional water cooled copper has been added to sidewalls and roofs, No maintenance ‘has been conducted on the hearth and it is projected to exceed the record campaign. Cooling System Development Following the early campaign experiences at KNS the preference has been to use drilled passage copper plate for cooling element installations. Extended surfaces for the shaft transition elements have been fabricated from 200mm billet. Each fabrication technique for copper elements experience failure mechanisms and for drilled passage elements the typical failure was associated with progressive ctosion of the plugs, Element life, depending on the area of application can vary between ‘wo to in excess of ten years. Therefore cooling element failure can be expected to occur ‘on a regular basis within the campaign life of the furnace. The approach taken to increasing the life of drilled passage cooling elements has been freeze fit the plugs and copper weld and skim to a smooth external surface. No plug failures have been seen with this latest technique. More recently, the development of cooling elements has focussed on the Consolidated Furmiace Module (CEM) Cooling System. This system is an integrated copper and refractory module and specifically limits the opportunity for water leaks by 454 NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 removing the water passage from the fumace hot face. Cast around Monel tubing has been used for these installations, Initial installations of this system have proven to be encouraging, with no failures of the elements being experienced. Furace Hearth Design ‘The nickel Flash Smelting industry has been plagued by hearth failures, KNS has ‘experienced three hearth failures, at the end of. campaign 4 on No.1 Flash Furnace, after campaign 6 on No.2 Flash Furnace, and during the last campaign, In each failure nickel penetration has reached the safety lining of the hearth, Following the failure the No.1 Flash Fumace, a decision was made to replace the insulated hearth refractory design with a magnesite subhearth. The purpose of this change ‘Was to encourage-heat transfer through the hearth and to raise the freezeline of nickel sulphide within the hearth. Experience has shown that this modification has been ‘unsuccessfill and that substantially greater heat transfer through the hearth is required to raise the freezeline into the permanent lining. The hearth design remains the snajor engincering challenge for future Flash Fumace operation, wary 1999 furnace failure ‘The failure of the Flash Furnace hearth in January 1999 was due to two principal reasons: . lifting of the hearth from the safety lining; . cracking of the hearth at three sidewall joints across the width of the furnace. Nickel sulphide in the nickel rich region has a minimum liquidus of 640°C. The integrated furnace with combined oxidation and reduction zone promotes the presence of low liquidus nickel matte. Thermal cycling of the hearth results in expansion and contraction of the heatth, During periods of contraction, matte can readily penetrate the heath to below the norinal freeze line. Thermal cycling at KNS during the campaign was experienced due to: + fiequent and protracted fiannace shutdowns due to air quality control requirement. . decp thermal cycles due to statutory boiler inspections with furnace shutdowns at Jow temperature over a period of 4-12 days; * the failure of the furnace in April 1997 and resultant cold repair, ‘The expansion of the hearth up to the time of commissioning the acid plant was 2mmv/month. Reduced thermal eycling resulted in a reduction of the hearth expansion rate to Immy/month measured in terms of sidewall movement. ‘The hearth cracks also developed due to thermal cycling and the limited ability of the hearth and sidewall refractory to move relative to. ‘the sidewall structure. NICKEL AND COBALT 2005 455 The following actions were taken to minimize the opportunity for hearth damage jn the current campaign: carbon paste has been applied between the sidewall copper and refractory; additional slip joints have been cut into the sidewall plates; additional copper cooling in sidewalls to improve hearth hold-down; an extensive condition monitoring system has been installed; and consequently, improved control on furnace operation has been achieved; a hearth cooling system has been installed; air quality control shutdowns have been virtually eliminated. CONCLUSIONS KNS has had a long history in Flash Smelting and through continuous improvement has progressively increased production from 30,000 Ni t/a to 120,000 Ni t/a rates. The major challenges ahead at KNS revolve around achieving consistent operation, through extensive monitoring, tight control of operational parameters, and continuous improvement of the furnace cooling and refractory. Fumace and Acid Plant Reliability programs form the basis of the ongoing development at KNS targeting Safe, Reliable Production. : REFERENCES Mackay, B. & Biswas, S, Brief History of Flash Smelting at Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter, Proceedings of the 9" Intemational Flash Smelting Congress, Australia, 1999,