Additonal authors: Montenegro, Alvear. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Davis, B. R.
An optical probe for burner monitoring in copper flash smelting, first developed at the University of Concepcion, is being industrially tested in a collaboration between Kingston Process Metallurgy, Aurubis AG, and Queen’s University. The sensor uses fibre-optics and optical emission spectroscopy to analyze the light emitted from combusting particles in the furnace reaction shaft. Information that can be extracted from the emission spectrum includes the temperature and brightness of the flame, as well as emission lines or bands from excited atomic and/or molecular species. Laboratory proof of concept testing of the sensor was first completed in a continuously fed drop tube reactor using O2/S stoichiometric ratios between 0.8–4.0. These O2/S stoichiometries capture the industrial operating condition, which is typically less than 1. The results from lab testing justified a plant trial of the optical probe, which was done in the Aurubis Hamburg flash furnace in September 2018. From this trial, approximately 31 hours of spectral data were collected and synchronized with furnace operating data. The results from both drop tower test work and the plant trial are discussed with implications for process monitoring in the commercial furnace.
Flash furnace smelting is a continuous feed, batch tap, pyrometallurgical process. It is used to treat copper sulphide concentrates and small amounts of secondary materials, such as dust generated by the process. O2 enriched air and the concentrate blend are fed into the furnace reaction shaft through the concentrate burner. As the particles fall through the reaction shaft, they heat up and ignite, causing rapid, exothermic reactions that oxidize the iron sulphide, some copper sulphide and impurities in the feed. Reacted particles fall into the settler of the furnace, melt and separate into a matte and slag, while the SO2 enriched off-gas is carried out of the furnace for heat recovery and H2SO4 production.
Operation of the furnace is achieved by adjusting a limited number of control variables. The main variables are the blast feed rate, blast oxygen enrichment, SiO2 flux feed rate and CH4 combustion rate (CH4 is used when the chemical energy of the concentrate is low) all measured relative to a set feed throughput. (Davenport & Partelpoeg, 1987; Davenport, King, Schlesinger & Biswas, 2002) The batch tapping nature of flash furnaces makes operation difficult because these control variables impact each other, and product quality can only be measured when matte and slag are tapped from the furnace. This means that operation of a furnace is based on feedback control from matte and slag assays. Because of the time-delay associated with understanding product quality, there is interest in using technology to monitor the combustion reactions that happen in the furnace reaction shaft.