UBC Theses and Dissertations
Optimization of magnesium removal from hydrometallurgical leach liquors by struvite formation Eghtesad, Masoumeh
Nickel is a vital metal which occurs in two types of ore: laterites and sulfides. Historically sulfide ores have been the primary source of nickel however due to their limited resources and the vast occurrence of laterites, laterite processing has gained a great deal of attention. Nickel in laterite ores is accompanied by impurities such as magnesium and iron, due to their similarity in ionic radii and their capability in replacing one another in crystal lattices. Magnesium compounds are highly soluble, therefore, magnesium impurity in nickel processing leads to the production of non-recyclable process water which results in high water consumption and negative environmental impact due to the wastewater being discarded to the environment. An approach has been derived at the University of British Columbia which involves the removal of magnesium compounds from nickel plant wastewater streams as struvite. Struvite, MgNH₄PO₄·6H₂O, is a valuable fertilizer which provides three important nutrients of magnesium, phosphorus and nitrogen to plants. This study confirms the ability of the proposed flowsheet to successfully remove magnesium as struvite from nickel laterite plants from both aspects of the magnesium removal efficiency and the produced struvite purity; with the experiments conducted at the base conditions having magnesium removal efficiency of above 95 percent and the produced struvite purity being above 97 percent. This study focuses on the optimal conditions leading to the maximum magnesium removal and therefore struvite precipitation. Struvite precipitation is affected by many parameters. The most influential factors affecting struvite crystallization are mixing intensity, seeding and the seeding technique, pH, temperature, crystal retention time, magnesium to phosphate ratio, supersaturation level and the impurities present in the system. This study verifies that each of these parameters affect struvite precipitation differently. For instance, variations in supersaturation level and pH have greater effect on struvite precipitation then variations in temperature and mixing intensity. Additionally, this study confirms that the optimum condition for struvite precipitation is the same as the existing conditions of the effluent solution such as ambient temperature and pH; therefore, no further adjustment is required; however, solution seeding with struvite powder does improve the magnesium removal efficiency.
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