Gas Phase Sulphation of Nickel Laterite Ores

Rankin W J,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1996
Increasing concern with the emission of sulphur dioxide from smelters and roasters has caused renewed interest in processes which can use waste sulphur dioxide, such as the sulphation of nickel laterite ores. The process described here proposes to by-pass the production of sulphuric acid and react laterite directly with a sulphur dioxide containing atmosphere. A thermodynamic analysis identified operating windows in which nickel sulphate forms while iron oxide (the major impurity in most laterite ores) remains stable. The initial assumptions included unit activity of all species except nickel oxide. The lowest possible nickel oxide activity (while maintaining selectivity) increased with increasing temperature, indicating that selective sulphation is favoured by low temperatures. The temperature of interest was found to be between 500 and 800¦C. Calculations show that a feed gas containing ten per cent SO2, five per cent 02, balance N2 requires a temperature greater than 650¦C for selective sulphation of nickel. Laboratory experiments showed that the assumption of unit activity of ferric sulphate was unrealistic above about 680¦C due most likely to the formation of solid solutions which decreased the ferric sulphate activity. Results are presented which illustrate the limiting equilibrium sulphur trioxide partial pressures at 700 and 730¦C below which selective sulphation occurs. Cobalt extraction was usually between 80 and 95 per cent under conditions yielding selective sulphation, whilst nickel extraction was about 50 to 75 per cent depending on temperature and choice of upper limit of iron extraction. An operating diagram is presented for a limonite ore and shows that the optimum reaction conditions are 680¦C and an input gas containing 20 per cent SO2. Under these conditions nickel, cobalt and iron extractions are 73, 95 and two per cent respectively.
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