Process Metallurgy in Circular Economy System Design: The Copper and Base Metal Value Chain

Additonal authors: Valero, A.. 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

Llamas, A. Abadías

Evaluating the economic viability as well as the sustainability of the Circular Economy (CE) system requires a deep understanding of the distribution of all elements, compounds, alloys, materials etc. in flows. In this paper, the circularity of the copper value chain, including primary and secondary processing, is rigorously evaluated. The studied system comprises the metallic copper production from primary sources (from mineral to metal), copper-containing commodity production (copper is mixed with other metals) and copper recycling through secondary smelting to close the loop. This is linked to photovoltaic (PV) panels and battery storage. A simulation model of this system is created using HSC Sim, considering more than 30 elements (and its various compounds), 180 unit operations and 800 flows. From the mass and energy balances obtained through the simulation, an exergy analysis is conducted to evaluate the resource consumption from a second law (entropy) perspective. Additionally, these results are complemented through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the recovery of technology elements and by-products is discussed, while quantifying the losses through the value chain. Through the digitalization of the complete system, a better CAPEX and OPEX understanding of the metal recovery and losses can be obtained, as well as the associated resource consumption and environmental impacts. New flowsheets and technologies can be evaluated. Several scenarios show how the resource consumption and the environmental impacts are affected by the recovery of different materials to produce different products. INTRODUCTION A key challenge of the circular economy (CE) is the linkage and optimization of both resource and energy efficiency of the (renewable) energy infrastructure and the resource cycle depicted by Figure 1 simultaneously. In addition, the CE requires the linkage of all stakeholders as shown by Figure 1. This has been discussed in some detail by Reuter and Bartie (2019) and Reuter et al. (2019). Copper and all its associated technology elements is one of the key enabling metals that is an economical copper colored thread through CE society (Reuter & Kojo, 2014). The Metal Wheel (Figure 2) shows the linkage of and recovery of various elements associated with copper and other carrier metals. This reveals that copper acts as an important carrier metal because of its properties i.e. the wealth of technology elements it carries from geological ores, but also its capacity to act as solvent of valuable elements and thence a key closer of various complexly connected element and material cycles when these technology elements are released during copper refining. The same applies to all other carrier metals of modern CE society as shown for example recently in a lead policy brief (Blanpain, Reuter & Malfliet, 2019).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019