Electrical Model of an Electrowinning Circuit Including Stray Current through Electrolyte Piping

Additonal authors: . Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Richardson, S. C.

The electrowinning (EW) circuit involves using DC current in the electro-deposition of metal ions dissolved in an electrolyte solution. This paper reviews a method to generate an electrical model of an EW circuit and the resulting DC current flow and voltage distribution within the circuit. Topics include: calculations of electrolyte conductivity and the equivalent electrical resistance of the electrolyte within the electrolyte pipelines connected to the EW circuit; the breakdown and classification of the EW cell voltage into thermodynamic and ohmic potentials; methods to calculate current flow and voltage distribution throughout the EW circuit; and the development of an interactive visual computer model to simulate an actual EW circuit. Stray current can pose an electrical shock hazard to employees in electrolytic tankhouses. Increased awareness and understanding of the voltage distribution and potential stray current in an EW circuit can help mitigate the risk of tankhouse workers becoming exposed to electrical shock hazards. INTRODUCTION Copper electrowinning tankhouses include rectifiers that deliver large amount of DC current to a series of electrolytic cells consisting of electrolyte solution and electrode pairs. The design also includes metallic conductors in the circuit which include the rectifier’s positive and negative busbar, inter-cell busbar, and the anode and cathode frames. The electrolyte acts as an electrical conductor that transfers current via ions between the anodic and cathodic electrodes within the cell. Electrolyte, as a conductor, is also capable of conducting DC current outside the main EW circuit through the connected electrolyte feed and return pipe systems. DC current that follows a path other than the intended path through the series of electrolytic cells is referred to as “stray current”. Developing an electrical model enhances understanding of voltage distribution and current flow in an EW circuit. This paper discusses the derivation of the various representative components of the model as well as the output from the model. An interactive visual computer simulation incorporates the model output in order to aid in the understanding of voltage distribution and current flow throughout the EW circuit.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019