A Structured Approach To Thermo-Dynamic Modelling Of Aqueous Solutions For Nickel Processing

Cairncross, L. R. C.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1997
In this study, the general case of semi-batch precipitation of nickel hydroxide, Ni(OH)2, is modelled. In practical terms, this precipitation may occur at high ionic strengths, and therefore the model for solution chemistry requires a thermodynamic model that is applicable for these non-ideal systems. The activity coefficient model used is the ELEC-NRTL. The simulation of the solution chemistry is performed using AspenPlusTM, which is a steady-state process simulation program. This allows for rigorous evaluation of the solution speciation, and hence the degree of supersaturation which dictates the precipitation kinetics. The solution chemistry provides the basis for predicting the formation of solids. The model consists of a solution chemistry part and a solids formation part. The inputs to the model include the initial concentrations of the streams entering the reactor, kinetic parameters for the precipitation processes, and a particle size distribution obtained from experiments. The solids formation part of the model employs the method of moments for the evaluation of the population balance. The population balance accounts for total particle number, and the formation and increase in size of particles across the entire particle size range. This balance requires kinetic parameters for the processes of nucleation, growth and agglomeration. Using optimization routines inherent in AspenPlusTM, parameters for the rate of nucleation, growth and agglomeration may be extracted from experimental particle size distributions. These are then used in the model to extrapolate to other conditions. Once an understanding of the kinetics of the precipitation processes is gained, the model provides a predictive tool for optimization of these kinetics, in order to increase the overall particle size and therefore improve solid-liquid separation. The work is deemed to be significant as it sheds some light on solids formation processes involved in precipitation?including nucleation, growth and aggregation?and develops a predictive modelling tool applicable to solutions of high ionic strength. We argue that this dewatering of suspensions is affected significantly by particle size distribution and surface properties of the solids formed by precipitation. This modelling tool should facilitate the design of solids formation processes where downstream dewatering is enhanced.
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