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Bayer Process Chemistry

Bayer Process Chemistry

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An essay which will be beneficial to Chemical Engineers, Industrial Chemists or Metallurgical Engineers studying at university for a degree course. Theory and practice covered. The author has three years hands-on experience working as a process engineer in the white mud section of a 900tpd alimina refinery in Guyana, processing a trihydrate ore.

An essay which will be beneficial to Chemical Engineers, Industrial Chemists or Metallurgical Engineers studying at university for a degree course. Theory and practice covered. The author has three years hands-on experience working as a process engineer in the white mud section of a 900tpd alimina refinery in Guyana, processing a trihydrate ore.

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Published by: Ramoutar (Ken) Seecharran on Jan 21, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/17/2013

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ByKenneth R SeecharranProcess EngineerAlumina Plant, Guymine, Linden
The process of producing pure alumina from bauxite - the Bayer Process - haschanged very little since its invention by Austrian chemist Karl Josef Bayer whileworking in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He develop a method for supplying aluminato the textile industry (it was used as a mordant in dyeing cotton), in 1888. Hefound that the aluminium hydroxide that precipitated from alkaline solution wascrystalline and could be easily filtered and washed, while that precipitated fromacid medium by neutralization was gelatinous and difficult to wash.Figure 1: Karl Josef BayerThe alumina produced today, can then be used for various industrial purposes orsmelted to provide aluminum.The first commercial plant was commissioned in 1893. The Bayer process can beconsidered in three stages:
 
 2
 Figure 2: Aerial view of a Bayer processing plant
 
 3
Extraction
The aluminium-bearing minerals in bauxite - Gibbsite, Böhmite and Diaspore -are selectively extracted from the insoluble components (mostly oxides) bydissolving them in a solution of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda):The first step in the process is the mixing of ground bauxite into a solution ofsodium hydroxide. By applying steam and pressure in tanks containing themixture, the bauxite slowly dissolves. The alumina released reacts with thesodium hydroxide to form sodium aluminateGibbsite:
Al(OH)
3
+ Na
+
+ OH
-
 
Al(OH)
4-
+ Na
+
 Böhmite and Diaspore:
AlO(OH) + Na
+
+ OH
-
+ H
2
O
Al(OH)
4-
+ Na
+
 Depending on the quality of the ore it may be washed to beneficiate it prior toprocessing. The ore is crushed and milled to reduce the particle size and makethe minerals more amenable to extraction. It is then combined with the processliquor and sent in a slurry form to a heated pressure digester.Conditions within the digester (concentration, temperature and pressure) are setaccording to the properties of the bauxite ore. Ores with a high Gibbsite contentcan be processed at 140
o
C with about 110gl
-1
of Na
2
O. Processing of Böhmite onthe other hand requires harsher conditions, between 200 and 240°C and140-170 gl
-1
of Na
2
O. The pressure is not important for the process, as such butis defined by the steam pressure during the actual process conditions. At 240°Cthe pressure is approximately 35 atmospheres (atm).Although higher temperatures are often theoretically advantageous there areseveral disadvantages including corrosion problems and the possibility of oxidesother than alumina dissolving into the caustic liquor, leading to impuritiesproblems in the final product, and scaling of pipes, pumps and tanks.After digestion about 30% of the bauxite mass remains in suspension as a thinred mud slurry of silicates, and oxides of iron and titanium. The mud-laden liquorleaving the digestion vessel is flash-cooled to atmospheric boiling point byflowing through a series of flash vessels which operate at successively lowerpressures.The flash steam generated is used to preheat incoming caustic liquor in tubularheat exchangers located parallel to the flash tank line. Condensate from the heatexchangers is used for boiler feed water and washing waste mud.

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