Freeport Mcmoran El Paso Refinery Electrolyte Management

Additonal authors: Olave, Blanca. 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

Wesstrom, Bradford C.

The Freeport McMoRan El Paso Copper Refinery optimizes electrolyte quality using a number of systems. The facility controls copper, arsenic, antimony and bismuth using electro-winning cells within the Tank House and Nickel Carbonate Plant Liberator Circuit (NCP). The NCP manages sulfuric acid content utilizing recycled electrolyte in the slimes autoclave as well as operation of the Acid Purification Unit, APU. The El Paso Refinery removes common sulfates using metal hydrolysis with sodium carbonate. Finally, a Mechanical Vapor Recompression, (MVR), at the water recovery plant removes sodium sulfate generated by the NCP. This paper will provide a summary of these operations. INTRODUCTION In the mid 1920’s Nichols Copper Company, in Laurel Hill, New York, recognized the need for a modern copper refining facility in the southwest. Because of the many railroad heads, affordable power and abundant labor supply, and the close proximity to regional copper smelters in Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico, El Paso became the ideal location. In December 1928, ground was broken for the joint venture refinery between the Nichols Copper Company, Phelps Dodge, and the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company. In September 1930, Nichols Copper Company became a part of Phelps Dodge Corporation after a stock exchange. In July 1938, Nichols Division officially became Phelps Dodge Refining Corporation. In March 2007, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold acquired Phelps Dodge. Water is a precious commodity in the desert southwest, making conservation of this natural resource an important goal for the El Paso Operations. In the 1980’s, work on the treatment of slimes was improved through the use of pressure leaching of the refinery slimes using an autoclave. Due to the high tellurium content in the leached slimes solution, it was crucial to implement a method for its removal before the solution returns to the tank house electrolyte. A copper telluride cementation operation was installed for tellurium recovery and the ability for the recycle of the leachate and wash water to the refinery electrolyte. In October of 1997, ground was broken for the construction of the water recovery plant using an MVR to reuse process water, reducing water consumption by 25%. In 2002, electrolyte purification was further improved with the installation of an Acid Purification Unit, (APU) (Sheedy, Pajunen, & Wesstrom, 2007). The APU recycles 90% of the acids (both sulfuric and arsenic acids) back to the tank house electrolyte. The solution that passes through the APU is treated with soda ash to precipitate metals out of solution as carbonates and generates a sodium sulfate solution. This sodium sulfate solution is easily processed in the new water recovery plant, where the majority of the water recycles back into the plant as pure condensate. In 2012, the power plant at the refinery upgraded its Reverse Osmosis System to provide RO water to the tankhouse. This insured that the refinery would not have to bleed electrolyte for metals contained in well water such as: calcium, magnesium, iron and sodium chloride.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019