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# COMMINUTION AND SEPARATION THEORIES

INTRODUCTION
Comminution as crushing and grinding of minerals and foodstuff has been practised by
mankind for several thousand years. During the last 100 years, comminution of minerals and
other raw materials has developed into the most important mechanical operation of raw
material dressing industry.
In a modern cement plant the electrical energy consumed in connection with comminution may
add up to be appx. 70 % of the total energy consumption for the plant.
COMMINUTION THEORIES
The purpose of comminution theories is to define a numerical description of the size reduction
in relation to the energy consumption.
Numerous attempts have been made to relate energy input to the degree of comminution
produced. These attempts have resulted in a number of so-called laws. They are not really laws
of nature, and since none of them have been conclusively proved they should rather be called
hypothesis or theories.
Various theories of comminution are, in principle, included in the following formula with
different values for the constants:
dE
dX
c X
n
· − ∗
Where
E : Specific energy consumption
X : Particle size
c and n : Constants
The constant n is not really a constant since the best approximation to comminution in practise
is obtained if n becomes smaller when the particle size is reduced. So, n should be considered
constant only within limited size ranges.
____________________________________________________________________________
1
Comminution as a First Order Process. For practical mill calculations and for evaluation of
separators used for closed circuit grinding it has been found useful to consider the reduction
of sieve residues by comminution as a first order process.
dR
dE
cR · − or in integrated form
E W
R
R
o
f
· ⋅ log
(1)
where
E : Specific energy consumption.
W : Comminution index.
R
o
: Sieve residue of feed material.
R
f
: Sieve residue of final product.
Based on this theory, a useful tool for evaluation of closed circuit grinding can be developed.
This will be demonstrated in the following.
CLOSED CIRCUIT GRINDING
In closed circuit grinding the mill product is passed to a separator where oversize particles are
removed and returned to the mill inlet.
The efficiency of the separator used for closed circuit grinding is of great importance, not only
in terms of energy consumption for grinding to a certain fineness, but also in terms of the
particle size distribution of the final product.
Several methods have been developed for the purpose of evaluating the separation obtained in
a classifier. The advantages of the separator efficiency applied in the following are that it offers
a procedure to calculate directly how the separator influences the energy consumption by
grinding.
The separator efficiency by closed circuit grinding is now defined as the calculated reduction in
energy consumption when going from open circuit to closed circuit grinding in proportion to
the maximum reduction in energy consumption calculated for ideal separation.
____________________________________________________________________________
2
The basis for the following calculations is that the reduction in sieve residue by grinding can be
considered a first order process. Laboratory tests, as well as experience from mill installations,
indicate that this assumption is a good approximation for grinding taking place in ball mills and
tube mills.
If the open circuit grinding in a tube mill is considered as a first order process, the energy
consumption by grinding one ton of feed material with sieve residue R
o
to a final product with
sieve residue R
f
can be calculated as follows:
E W
R
R
s
o
f
· ⋅ log
(2)
The energy consumption for closed circuit grinding can be calculated in the same way, using
the same comminution index for reduction of sieve residue. By using the indications in the flow
sheet it is possible to arrive at an equation containing, as for open circuit grinding, sieve
residues for feed and final product and as characteristics for the separator the circulation factor
and sieve residue for the coarse fraction:
____________________________________________________________________________
3
Mill
Mill Sep
E C W
R
R
c
t
M
· ⋅ ⋅ log
(3)
Since and we have: R
R R C
C
R
R R C
C
t
o g
M
f g
·
+ −
·
+ − ( ) ( ) 1 1
E C W
R C R
R C R
c
o g
f g
· ⋅ ⋅
+ − ⋅
+ − ⋅
¸
¸

_
,

log
( )
( )
1
1
(4)
Closed circuit grinding with ideal separation is now defined as a condition where the coarse
fraction from the separator does not contain any particles which can pass the sieve used for
determination of fineness. The energy consumption for closed circuit grinding with ideal
separation can therefore be calculated by using the above equation for closed circuit grinding
with the only difference that the coarse fraction has a sieve residue of 100 % or fraction 1 (Rg
= 1).
E C W
R
R
ci
t
M
· ⋅ ⋅ log
(5)
E C W
R C
R C
ci
o
f
· ⋅ ⋅
+ −
+ −
¸
¸

_
,

log
1
1
(6)
____________________________________________________________________________
4
Mill Sep
Energy Saving and Separator Efficiency in Closed Circuit Grinding
The relative energy reduction which can be obtained by changing from open circuit to closed
circuit grinding can now be calculated as:
B
E E
E
s c
s
·

(7)
The maximum relative energy reduction can be calculated in the same way when, instead of
energy consumption in closed circuit grinding, we look at energy consumption in closed circuit
grinding with ideal separation:
B
E E
E
s ci
s
max
·

(8)
Now the separator efficiency for reduction of energy consumption by closed circuit grinding
can be calculated according to our definition as the energy reduction in proportion to the
maximum energy reduction:
V
B
B
E E
E E
s
s c
s ci
· ·

max
(9)
Enclosure 1 shows the maximum reduction in specific energy consumption for closed circuit
grinding compared with open circuit grinding in relation to the circulation factor. Curves have
been drawn for different sieve residues of the final product.
With increasing circulation factors, the maximum energy reduction starts to increase rapidly,
however, circulation factors larger than approx. 3 do not give any significant further increase.
If, for instance, we consider the grinding of raw meal to 1 % residue on a 200 micron sieve (70
mesh), then the curve for R
f
= 1 % indicates that closed circuit grinding compared with open
circuit grinding involves the possibility of a maximum energy reduction of 75 %.
In case of grinding cement to 30 % residue on say a 30 micron sieve the maximum energy
reduction is only 35 %.
____________________________________________________________________________
5
Enclosure 2 shows the separator efficiency for energy reduction in relation to the sieve residue
for coarse material from the separator with curves for different fineness of the final product.
The curves have been calculated for a feed material with 100 % residue on the sieve being
considered and for a circulation factor of 2.5.
It can be seen that the separator efficiency decreases when the coarse fraction becomes finer. If
the coarse fraction is very fine, the possibility exists that we get a negative separator efficiency,
which means that the specific energy consumption for closed circuit grinding is larger than for
open circuit grinding.
By using this concept it is possible to calculate energy consumptions for closed circuit grinding
from energy consumption for open circuit grinding if we know what energy reduction the
separator can bring about. This energy reduction is equal to the maximum energy reduction
multiplied by the separator efficiency. If we also include the equation for open circuit grinding
we get a suitable formula for calculation of the specific energy consumption of closed circuit
grinding:
E E B
c s
· ⋅ − ( ) 1
(10)
V
B
B
B B V
s s
· ⇔ · ⋅
max
max
(11)
By combining eq. (2) with (10) and (11) we find:
E W
R
R
B V
c
o
f
s
· ⋅
¸
¸

_
,

⋅ − ⋅ log ( )
max
1
(12)
This formula is based on the assumption that the reduction of sieve residue is a first order
process as stated in (1).
Examples of Energy Saving in Closed Circuit Grinding
The influence of the separator on energy consumption for grinding to a certain fineness can be
illustrated by examples. The following is an example of grinding to different sieve residues on a
30 micron sieve. For ordinary cement clinker, the comminution index, W, for reduction of the
30 micron sieve residue is of the order of 75 kWh/t.
____________________________________________________________________________
6
Enclosure 3 shows the percentage finer than 30 micron in relation to the specific energy
consumption. The calculations have been made for a circulation factor of 3 and for different
values of separator efficiency. Separator efficiency equal to zero corresponds to open circuit
grinding.
The curves indicate that the specific energy consumption when grinding to a certain percentage
finer than 30 micron can be considerably reduced, when the separator efficiency is increased.
If, for instance, we consider grinding to 20 % residue and a 30 micron sieve, then the specific
energy consumption for closed circuit grinding compared with open circuit grinding can be
reduced from 52.5 kWh/t to 47 kWh/t or by 11 % if the separator efficiency (V
s
) is 25 %.
For higher separator efficiencies and lower sieve residues the reduction in energy consumption
is higher:
Separator Efficiency % Reduction in Energy Consumption
20% Sieve Residue 10% Sieve Residue
25% 11 13
50% 20 28
75% 31 41
100% 41 54
SEPARATORS
Types of Separators
The dynamic air separator or classifier was invented around one hundred years ago. The
Circulating Air Separator, developed in 1889 by Gebr. Pfeiffer is still widely used as separator
for closed circuit grinding. The original principle has been adopted by a large number of
manufacturers. This type of separator is also called Conventional Air Separator. It is
characteristic that the air separator, the fan for circulating air, and the cyclone for separation of
fines from the air are combined in a single machine. The name Sturtevant Type Separator is
often being used because Sturtevant is one of the most well known suppliers of this type of
separator (Enclosure 4).
____________________________________________________________________________
7
A lot of separators of this type are still in operation. However, the efficiency as well as the
capacity of this Conventional Air Separator is low compared with later generations of
separators, and it is therefore actually not sold any more.
The second generation of separators with improved efficiency is the so called Cyclone Type
Separator. Here we have an external air circuit from fan through separator and cyclones back
to fan. It is then possible to control and maintain a proper air flow through the separator, and
the cyclone can be designed with a better efficiency than is the case for the Conventional Air
Separator. This separator was introduced by Wedag and is often called the Wedag Type
Separator (Enclosure 5).
The third generation of so called high efficient separators was introduced to the market during
the eighties. Here Onoda was the pioneer with the O-Sepa separator. However, many other
separator manufacturers have developed "High Efficient" air separators, and there are now a
number of very efficient separators in the market.
An example of a third generation separator is the SEPAX separator shown in Enclosure 6.
Evaluation of Separator Performance
The procedure for calculation of separator efficiency with regard to energy saving, as
developed by FLS, has been described previously. However, there are a number of other ways
to evaluate the performance of a separator. Some of the most common ones will be described
in the following.
Recovery of fines:
In the air separator, fine particles are separated from coarser particles. The separator has a high
efficiency if the fine fraction has a low content of over-size particles and the coarse fraction a
low content of under-size particles.
It is therefore common to calculate the separator efficiency as recovery from feed material into
the fine fraction of particles smaller than a certain size. The recovery of fines (R.F.) can be
calculated from sieve residues on a certain sieve for the different material streams in the circuit:
____________________________________________________________________________
8
R F
R
R C
R
R
R R
R R
f
m
f
m
g m
g f
. . ·

⋅ ·

100
100
100
100
100
100%
(13)
where
R
f
: % sieve residue for fines
R
g
: % sieve residue for separator reject material
R
m
: % sieve residue for mill discharge material (separator feed)
C : Circulation number
The relation between the separator efficiency for energy reduction, V
s
, and the efficiency for
recovery of fines, R.F., is shown in Enclosure 7.
It appears, that the relation is very much dependent on the circulation number. This means
further that the recovery of fines figure for a certain separator does not tell anything about the
influence of the separator on the mill performance unless the circulation number is considered
as well. For example, if the circulation number is very low, around 1.5, a separation with a
recovery of fines of 70 - 75 % will have no positive influence on the specific energy
consumption for the grinding.
Trump Curves or Fractional Recovery:
It is generally realized, that the Recovery of Fines is not a good method for evaluation of
separators. A method which is being used more and more is to calculate the Fractional
Recoveries (F.R.) and to present the results as a so called Tromp curve.
The Tromp curve shows what fraction of particles of different sizes in the feed material is
going into the coarse fraction (the separator reject).
The calculation is based on a number of sieve residues on sieves corresponding to different
particle sizes, d
1
, d
2
,........d
n
. The Fractional Recovery of particles of size d
12
= ½ (d
1
+ d
2
) is
calculated as follows:
F R d
R R C
R R C
g g
m m
. . ( )
( ) ( )
( )
12
1 2
1 2
1
·
− ⋅ −
− ⋅
(14)
____________________________________________________________________________
9
Enclosure 8 shows an example of a Tromp curve. The particle size can be read (normally in
micron) from the abscissa, and the ordinate gives the percentage by weight of particles of the
size indicated by the abscissa going into the coarse fraction. From the Tromp curve different
characteristics for the separation can be found:
The cut size (x50) is defined as the size of particles distributing with equal quantities in the fine
fraction and in the coarse fraction.
The Sharpness Factor (κ) is a measure for the steepness of the Tromp curve and is calculated
as the size of particles of which 25 % pass into the tailings divided by the size of which 75 %
pass into the tailings:
κ = (D25)/(D75) (15)
A Tromp curve will usually show a minimum. The minimum value (δ) is often called by-pass or
Short Circuit. It indicates that a certain amount of small particles end up in the coarse fraction.
Reasons could be poor dispersion, partly due to presence of agglomerates caused by very fine
particles in the separator feed material, or large quantities of fines circulating with the air. For
good separator efficiency the amount of by-pass should be low.
Although the Tromp curve gives useful information on the separation taking place there is no
fixed relation between the shape of the Tromp curve or the three characteristics and the saving
in grinding energy consumption caused by the separator. As for recovery of fines, the Tromp
curve (Fractional Recovery) is much influenced by the circulation. For instance, the by-pass (δ)
is an increasing function of the circulation number.
When the performance of two different separators is to be compared they are to be evaluated
individually. However, in order to make a fair comparison, the evaluation should be made on
equal basis. It is therefore important to keep in mind that the calculated separator efficiencies
and Tromp curves are dependent on a number of factors, such as:
Quantity and type of grinding aid.
Quantity of material and air through the separator and the ratio between these.
Cement type and fineness.
Circulation factor.
Quality of the material sampling.
Method of the particle size analysis.
____________________________________________________________________________
10
MILL CALCULATIONS
None of the previously mentioned comminution theories make it possible to calculate the
proper mill size for a certain grinding job from physical constants for the material to be ground.
The normal procedure for mill calculations is to carry out a laboratory grinding test and to
perform a mill calculation by using empirical formulas based on experience from operating
mills. The better the laboratory grinding test simulates the grinding in practice and the more we
know about influence from mill dimensions and separator efficiency, the more accurate the mill
calculation can be.
Over the years a number of test procedures have been used to determine the grindability of
different materials. Some of these will be described in the following:
Bond's theory of comminution has been widely used for mill calculations and is still used. The
basis of the calculations is the work index W
i
which represents the work required to reduce the
materials from infinite size to 80 % finer than 100 micron. W
i
is calculated as net kWh per
short ton.
The work index is determined by a standardized wet laboratory grinding test in a ball mill with
1 ft diameter and 1 ft length. The specific energy consumption by closed circuit grinding in
practice is calculated from:
E W
X X
kWh
sh ton
i
p f
· ⋅
¸
¸

_
,

¸

1
]
1
100 100
.
(16)
where
X
p
: Aperture in microns of sieve giving 20 % residue for final product.
X
f
: Aperture in microns of sieve giving 20 % residue for feed material.
In the case of open circuit grinding, the energy consumption is increased by a factor of 1.33. In
the same way a factor of 1.33 should be used in the case of dry grinding instead of wet
grinding.
____________________________________________________________________________
11
For wet closed circuit grinding the method may be practicable, but rather inaccurate. For open
circuit grinding, and especially for dry grinding, the method can hardly be used with any
reasonable accuracy.
The Hardgrove Index for grinding is determined by a laboratory grinding test where 50 g of
material between 590 and 1190 micron is being ground 60 revolutions in a small bearing mill.
The product is then sieved on a 200 mesh (74 micron) sieve. The Hardgrove Index is then
determined from a calibration curve which, for instance will give:
H = 11 + 6.7 ⋅ W (17)
where
W is grams passing 200 mesh.
The Hardgrove Index is used especially for calculation of coal mills. An approximative relation
between the Hardgrove Index and the specific energy consumption for coal grinding in a
vertical roller mill appears on Enclosure 9.
The Zeisel grindability method is similar to the Hardgrove test, but adopted for harder
materials. In the laboratory test the specific energy input is measured in relation to the specific
surface.
FLS Mill Calculations
Ball mills:
For many years the FLS mill calculations for ball mills have been based on laboratory grinding
tests in 0.5 × 0.5 m mills. The idea being to simulate the grinding in practice in the best possible
way.
The sample to be ground is usually precrushed to a maximum size of 16 mm, and the grinding
starts with 40 - 90 mm balls, corresponding to the first compartment in a three compartment
ball mill.
After each period of grinding, the fineness is determined by sieve analysis, and, in case of
cement grinding, also by determination of the specific surface (Blaine).
____________________________________________________________________________
12
The mill calculations are based on accurate measurements of the energy consumption in the
laboratory grinding test.
A mill calculation for a cement mill is still usually based on a required specific surface (Blaine)
for the final product.
The grinding test is then carried out as open circuit batch grinding.
The grinding process in an open circuit ball mill can be described as:
E W s S
o
n
· ⋅ ( ) (18)
where
E
o
: Open circuit specific power consumption
W(s) : Open circuit grinding constant
S : Specific surface (km
2
/t)
n : Open circuit surface exponent
The grinding constant used in open circuit in practice is determined by the laboratory grinding
test simply as follows:
W(s) = k⋅ W(s)
lab (19)
where
k is an empirical constant.
The specific energy consumption for the mill operating in open circuit to a certain Blaine
surface can be calculated using the formula given above.
For closed circuit, the calculation becomes somewhat more complicated. However, a grinding
constant is determined as explained above, and the specific energy consumption for the mill
operating in closed circuit can in principle be calculated according to a formula as the
following:
E W s f S C S
c
n
o
· ⋅ ( ) ( , , , Type of separator) (20)
____________________________________________________________________________
13
f is an empirical function of the specific surface of the final product, the circulation number, the
specific surface of the new feed (S
o
), and the type of separator (or rather the expected
efficiency of the separator).
In conventional closed circuit grinding the specific surface of the new feed may be insignificant.
However this may not be the case for a closed circuit mill with a roll press as a pregrinder.
Further, if a roll press is included as a pregrinder, the grinding constant determined by the
laboratory grinding test has to be reduced by an empirical roll press improvement factor.
A mill for grinding of cement raw materials is usually sized for grinding to a certain sieve
residue.
For this purpose the laboratory grinding test is carried out as closed circuit grinding in
stages.
After grinding with one or two different ball mixtures the material is separated, usually by
screening, and the oversize material together with new feed material is used for the next stage
of grinding. This procedure is continued until an equilibrium is obtained.
When calculating a mill for continuous grinding, distribution on retention time and on grinding
over the cross section of the mill, as well as the separator efficiency and the circulation factor
have to be taken into account.
This method of mill calculation is probably one of the most elaborate in the world, and suitable
for calculation of ball mills for any grinding job.
Vertical Roller Mills:
For calculation of vertical roller mills, continuous grinding tests are carried out in the
laboratory using a small vertical roller mill. The laboratory test is carried out in exactly the
same way as plant operation, except for the mill being smaller.
As a result of the grinding test in the laboratory, figures are obtained for the specific energy
consumption, the wear rate, and the friction factor for rolling friction, the so called µ-factor.
____________________________________________________________________________
14
The required power consumption for a mill for a certain job is calculated as follows:
N(kW) = P(t/h) ⋅ E(kWh/t) (21)
The proper mill size is then obviously one which satisfies the following:
N(kW) ≤ K⋅ µ⋅ v (22)
where
K : The total grinding force (kN)
µ : The friction factor for rolling friction.
V : The speed of the grinding track. (m/s)
In case of extending the capacity of an existing plant, the best basis for calculation of new mills
will be exact performance figures from existing mills.
In any case, in order to keep the investment cost for new equipment as low as possible it is
important not to offer larger and more expensive mills than necessary for the grinding job in
question. It is therefore very important to use accurate methods for mill calculations.
____________________________________________________________________________
15

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