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Pealoza De Re Metallica Ingeniera Santiago, Chile, ABSTRACT A new filtration model based on porous media transport theory is presented. It predicts capacity and final moisture content in the filtered cake as function of design and operational variables at the plant. FilterSim is the computer code where this new model is programmed. Application of FilterSim to ten-month operation of an industrial copper concentrate filtration plant is shown on a daily basis and using a single set of internal parameters for the whole period. Average error is less than 5%, both in capacity and moisture estimation. FilterSim abilities to optimize industrial filtration plants as well as to estimate future budget are illustrated with several real examples.

BACKGROUND Filtration is the operation of separating solid particles from a fluid phase by means of a filter medium, which retains solids and permit the pass of fluid. This process has been used for many years in the mining and chemical industry, usually applied as final dewatering step. Many efforts have been made to improve design of new equipments, as well as to formulate new process models and also to find out better methods to estimate intrinsic parameters. This paper is centered in modeling of vertical plate press filters, eventhough extension to other design may be straightforward. The filtering cycle in a vertical plate press unit includes four basic steps: (i) feeding, (ii) pressing, (iii) drying and (iv) cloth washing. It has been noted from experimental observation that capacity is primarily determined by the feeding rate and the final moisture is controlled by the drying dynamics. These are the only two steps considered in the present description. Most of the existing models consider filtration either at constant pressure operation or constant feedrate operation [1-4]. This is not realistic because both the pressure and fluid flowrate are variables along the time when using centrifugal pump to feed the pulp into the chambers. Earlier approaches to describe the drying step include semi-empirical correlations to determine drying times and final cake moisture content [5-7], but nowadays the two-phase theory of flow in porous media is preferently used to model the drying step [4]. Given the importance of porosity in filtration, efforts have been made by several authors to relate this property to particle size distribution of the solids [8-11]. Results indicate that porosity depends mainly on the mean and the standard deviation of particle size distribution. Reviewing the technical literature it becomes evident the lack of realistic models with application to engineering design as well as to optimization of existing plants, particularly for copper concentrate filtration. Consequently, a novel filtration model for plates press filters is presented in this paper. This is based on current knowledge but improving potential to predict throughput and final moisture content in the filtered cake as function of design and operational variables existing at industrial plants. It includes: step times, characteristics of the material to be filtered, characteristics of the filter media including clogging along the time, characteristics of the fluid and characteristics of pumping system. The whole system is packed in a new computer code called FilterSim property of De Re Metallica, Chile. FEEDING MODEL FOR VERTICAL PLATES PRESS FILTER Feeding step in a vertical plate press filter is schematized in Figure 1. Filter medium has an associated permeability and it supports the cake formed over it along the time.

P0 P1

P1 P2




Filter Medium

Pulp Feed



Figure 1 Modeling scheme for the feeding step Modeling assumptions for the feeding step are as follows: Laminar flow in saturated porous media, that is, Darcys law is valid. Even cake thickness in the normal direction relative to plates. Cake is formed since the feeding operation start up. Non compressible cake. Filter medium resistance is a function of time and content of insoluble material in the concentrate. Pumping pressure is variable during the filling step. A characteristic curve pressure versus pulp flowrate for the centrifugal pump is considered. Internal behavior of the cake is average considered.

Applying Darcys law to cake and filter media, the following relationship is obtained:

P total = q fluid
Where, Ptotal q Fluid lc, lfm kc, kfm



l fm k fm


: : : : :

Total drop pressure. Specific liquid flowrate. Viscosity of the liquid. Respective thickness of cake and filter media. Respective permeability of cake and filter media.

The specific flowrate q is related to filtrated fluid volume according to the following expression:
qS = Where, S Vf (tf) tf : : : d Vf (t f ) d tf (2)

Filtration area. Fluid filtrated during the feeding time. Feeding time.

A relationship between volume of filtrated fluid V(tf) and cake thickness lc is obtained by considering a balance between the volume concentration of solids in the pulp, cake thickness and filtrated fluid volume,

lC =
Where, 0 0 : :

0 Vf ( t f ) (1 0 0 ) S


Volume concentration of solids in feed pulp. Cake porosity.

Finally a general relation between the filtrated fluid flowrate and the drop pressure across the porous media is obtained.

l d V (t ) 0 f f P (Q (t f ) ) S = fluid fm + Vf (t f ) k dt S (1 ) k ( ) 0 0 C 0 f fm
Where, P(Q(tf)) : : Q(tf) Filter pressure. Pulp feeding flowrate.


A relation between the pressure and the pulp feeding flowrate is also considered when centrifugal pump is employed to feed the filter:

P (Q ( t f )) = Q ( t f ) 2 + Q ( t f ) +
Where, , , : Constants depending on each specific pumping system.


Industrial data illustrating validity of equation 5 are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Fitting of centrifugal pump modeling Combining equations 4 and 5 and integrating drives to an expression for the filtrated fluid volume.

Vf (t f ) = Where,
A =

B + (B2 + 4 A C) 2A


0 2S (1 0 0 ) k c ( 0 )


B =

l fm S k fm

(8b) (8c)

C = f ( , , , t f )

From the filtrated fluid volume it follows an expression for the filter capacity:
Capacity (dmt/h) = 0 (1 0 ) 3600 S Vf ( t f ) (1 0 0 ) (t f + t p + t d + t w + t o )



tp td tw to s

: : : : :

Pressure time, s. Drying time, s. Washing time, s. Additional time, s. Specific gravity of solids.


Air is a second fluid participating at the drying filtration step. Accordingly, twophase flow through the cake and filter is considered by extending Darcys law. Other assumptions are: incompressible cake, constant blowing pressure, unit initial saturation and descending along the time, relative permeability is a function of the insoluble content in the concentrate, granulometry and liquid saturation. In symbols:
Ps fluid l fm lc = k + k ( ) k ( , S ) q 0 L 0 T fm


Where, Ps kL(0, ST) q ST

: : : :

Drying pressure. Relative liquid permeability in the unsaturated porous media. Specific flowrate of liquid in the unsaturated porous media. Liquid saturation.

Saturation and filtrated fluid volume are related as follows.

Vf ( t d ) = S l 0 ( 1 ST ( t d ) )


Applying the first derivative with respect to time to last equation and then combining with equation 10, a new expression representing the two-phase flow in the drying step is obtained:
PS fluid l fm dST ( t d ) lc = l 0 + k dt k( )k ( , S ) fm 0 L 0 T d (12)

Using the definition of reduced saturation, re-arranging and integrating equation 12 the following expression is obtained:

PS t d lc 0

1 l fm (1 S )(1 Sr ) + (1 S ) lc k fm k ( 0 ) Sr

1 k ( , ) d L 0


An exponential relation between relative liquid permeability and saturation is assumed in this work,

k L ( 0 , Sr ) = k 0 exp (k1 Sr )
Where, k0, k1


Constants depending on compression system and concentrate characteristics.

An expression for the cake moisture content H is obtained by combining the last two equations and integrating:
H = 0 ST L (1 0 ) S 0 ST L

(% )



Three additional sub models are included in FilterSim code: (i) permeability sub model based on the classical Kozeny-Carman equation, (ii) porosity sub model described as function of the first and second order momentum of the particle size distribution and (iii) hydraulic resistance of the filter medium, empirically modeled based on colmatation industrial data and laboratory measurements.

FilterSim code contains models and sub model above-described and it is programmed on MS Visual Basic platform on a daily basis. Operational strategies include feeding the chambers (i) by fixed times or (ii) by fixed weight. In last case feeding time is a response. General input data include: (i) design variables (chamber dimensions, number of chambers, filtrating media permeability, pumping capacity and blowing system capacity); (ii) characteristics of solid material (insoluble contents in feed, density, particle size and shape of solids); (iii) characteristics of the liquid phase (viscosity, density and surface tension of liquid, pulp dilution and pulp temperature); (iv) characteristic of the air phase (density, viscosity and temperature); (v) operational variables per cycle (feeding time or filter load, pressing time, drying time, washing time, discharging time, total filtration time, slurry pump pressure and blowing pressure). Saturated and non saturated permeability, porosity and hydraulic resistance of the filter media are then computed. This leads to compute throughput and moisture content in filtered product. A detailed description of the code is beyond the scope of this paper.


FilterSim was applied on a daily basis for a period of 10 months of operation in a filter plant having 3 vertical plate press filter units. Typical values for capacity in these filters are 60 dmt/h and 80 dmt/h, and 8.5% w/w and 10.5% w/w moisture in final concentrate. Figures 3, 4 and 5 show matching between real and simulated parameters for both capacity and moisture at each of the three filter units. Accuracy of the model is excellent showing less than 5% error along 10 months in both capacity and moisture, as shown in Table 1.

Figure 3 Matching between real and simulated results in Filter 1

Figure 4 Matching between real and simulated results in Filter 2

Figure 5 Matching between real and simulated results in Filter 3 Table 1 Summary of statistical parameters Industrial Unit Filter 1 Filter 2 Filter 3 Capacity Av. Error Std. Dev. % dmt/h 4.9 3.3 4.9 3.3 4.8 3.4 Moisture Av. Error Std. Dev. % % wb 3.5 0.3 4.1 0.4 4.1 0.4


Software FilterSim not only can be used to estimate future budget and long time planning, but also to optimize daily operation as shown below. Daily data corresponding to one month of industrial operation were taken and checking first that similar results are obtained for same input data. Then conditions were changed by simulation such to maximize production but keeping moisture of the product nearly constant. Final results indicate +7.5% additional capacity for similar product moisture if the plant is operated under conditions given by FilterSim instead of the real ones (see Table 2). Figure 6 shows the capacity curves for the base case and the optimized case, while Figure 7 shows moisture content in filtered concentrate for both cases. Change in feeding times and drying times are shown in Figures 8 and 9 also for both cases.

Table 2 Summary of result for the sensitivity analysis Parameter Production Production Average Moisture Units dmt/month wmt/month % wb Base Case 39117 42968 8.96 Optimized Case 42071 46195 8.93 Change Percentage, % 7.6 7.5 -0.4

Figure 6

Capacity in base case and optimized case

Figure 7 Moisture in base case and optimized case

Figure 8 Feeding time in base case and optimized case

Figure 9 Drying time in base case and optimized case


A powerful tool has been developed to estimate throughput and product moisture at industrial filtration plants using plates press filters. Application to a given plant indicates prediction error within 5%. A friendly computer code called FilterSim is available to use for design, optimization, control and planning purposes. It operates on a daily basis and includes applications to vertical and horizontal plates press filters depending on requirement.


1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

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